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Hematites fall in Div. 4 regional softball finals

By JOHN VRANCIC

For the Mining Journal

RAPID RIVER — A strong post-season run came to an end for the Ishpeming Hematites here Saturday as they dropped a 6-1 softball decision to the Rudyard Bulldogs in a Division 4 regional final.

The Hematites, who held off Hancock 6-5 in their opener, finished 9-16.

“Our girls played hard,” said Ishpeming coach Ben McGuire. “They have eight seniors. That’s a good team. In the first couple innings they really hit the ball. We’ve improved so much from the beginning of the year. Both or our pitchers threw well.

“The kids played real well against Hancock. That team had beaten us twice this year. That was a real good win for us.”

This marked the third straight regional crown for Rudyard (27-5), which hosts Hillman in a state quarterfinal contest Tuesday.

Rudyard junior Morgan Bickel tossed a three-hitter, struck out nine and walked none in the title contest.

Bickel had given up just one hit until the seventh inning of the nightcap when Ishpeming freshman Payton Manninen doubled to centerfield and scored on Maddy McNab’s double to center.

“Morgan wanted the ball and we gave it to her,” said Rudyard coach Steve Davis. “She threw well and our catcher (Megan Postma) did a phenomenal job. We made some good plays. We’ve now made the quarterfinals in three sports this year (also volleyball and basketball). That’s a big deal for us. It will be exciting for the girls to play the quarterfinal at home.”

The Bulldogs scored their first two runs on Brooklyn Besteman’s single to center in the first.

Rudyard got its third run on Paige Postma’s triple to center and made it 4-0 on Bickel’s single to center in the second.

Megan Postma scored Rudyard’s fifth run on Sara Beelen’s single to right-center in the third.

Bickel then raised the count to 6-0 on Megan Postma’s double to right in the fourth.

The Bulldogs finished with eight hits, including two by Megan Postma.

“Morgan wanted the ball and we gave it to her,” said Rudyard coach Steve Davis. “She threw well and our catcher (Megan Postma) did a phenomenal job. We made some good plays. We’ve now made the quarterfinals in three sports this year (also volleyball and basketball). That’s a big deal for us. It will be exciting for the girls to play the quarterfinal at home.”

The Bulldogs scored their first two runs on Brooklyn Besteman’s single to center in the first.

Rudyard got its third run on Paige Postma’s triple to center and made it 4-0 on Bickel’s single to center in the second.

Megan Postma scored Rudyard’s fifth run on Sara Beelen’s single to right-center in the third.

Bickel then raised the count to 6-0 on Megan Postma’s double to right in the fourth.

Hytinen, who took the win against Hancock, lasted just 1•innings against Rudyard. She allowed four runs on five hits and two walks in the title contest.

Manninen relieved in the second and struck out five, walked one and allowed two runs on three hits.

The Bulldogs finished with eight hits, including two by Megan Postma.

In the semifinals, Ishpeming led 6-1 following Hytinen’s leadoff home run to left-center in the sixth.

Hancock, taking advantage of two errors, got a run back in its half of the sixth.

With two out in the seventh, Hancock’s Kaisa Salani ripped a double to left-center and scored on Kaydence Kilpela’s single to center, making it 6-3.

Sophie Heinonen then blasted a two-run shot to left, bringing the Bulldogs within a run.

Manninen then relieved Hytinen and struck out the final hitter.

Eight Ishpeming players had one hit apiece. Salani had two of Hancock’s seven hits.

Manninen worked 6ª innings for the win. She struck out seven and walked none.

Kilpela went the distance and absorbed the loss. She fanned nine and walked five.

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