And just like that, it was over.
The favored Saline Hornets girls’ softball team dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to the Ann Arbor Pioneers Saturday afternoon at Hornet Stadium. Tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Pioneers got a two-out single by Ceci Maxiner followed by a walk-off double off the bat of first baseman Franny Schulenberg to end the game.
As theHornets walked off the field, their faces were the living and breathing example of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim McKay’s iconic line in the opening of ABC’s Wild World of Sports,
“…the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.
When you are competitors, any loss stings. But a walk-off loss in a game that you had so many opportunities to win, the sting is felt so much more. And it showed in the faces of the lady Hornets, especially seniors Kelsey Alexander, Ashley Heren and Danielle Cobello. They thought they would be battling either Lincoln or Belleville in the district championship game later Saturday afternoon. Their disappointment was visible.
Veteran hurler Alexandra Pace took the loss for the Hornets, dropping her season record to 9-4. Pace gave up three runs, six hits while walking six.
Heren led off the first inning by beating out a bunt single. Sophomore Elaina Walker laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, with Heren racing all the way to third. But Pioneer pitcher Mimi Maxiner got Pace and Alexander on two infield pop-ups to end the threat. And that would be the story of the Hornets for the game, they would strand a total of ten runners on base, including six in scoring position with less than two outs.
And that statistic, probably more than any other, cost the lady Hornets the game.
Saline punched across their first run in the top of the second. Junior Emma Schwartzenberger led off with a single to center. Sophomore Abigail Kleinschmidt bunted her to second. Schwartzenberger scored on a single to left by junior Isabella Darmos.
The Pioneers tied the game in their half of the second when they strung together three singles. It was 1-1 at the end of two.
The Hornets managed to put two runners aboard in the third on a one out single by Pace and a two out single by Schwartzenberger but again did not get the critical hit with runners on the bases.
In the top of the fourth, Darmos led off with a single. She was forced at second when junior Madison Shelton hit a ground ball to the Pioneer first baseman who fired to second to get Darmos. Heren reached base on a Pioneer error to put runners at first and second but Walker struck out to end the threat.
Pace walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the fourth but retired the next three batters.
Both teams scored in the fifth. The Hornets managed a two out rally when Schwartzenberger picked up her third hit of the game with a single to left. Kleinschmidt singled to advance Schwartzenberger to second.
A sharp single to right by Darmos scored Schwartzenberger from second to give Saline a brief 2-1 lead.
Pioneer tied it up at 2-2 in their half of the fifth. They put together three singles and a walk to knot things up.
Cobello led the sixth off with a walk and that would be the last bit of offense the Hornets would generate.
Pace took the mound in the bottom of the seventh, getting the first two outs of the inning. Then Maxiner punched a two out single to center, followed by a fly to deep left by Schulenberg. The Saline left fielder took one step in before racing over and back but the ball fell for the game winning double. And with that two-out rally, the game was over with Pioneer clinching the 3-2 victory and a spot in the championship game.
Following the game, Saline Head Coach Alicia Seegert was at a loss for words.
“We had our chances but just couldn’t finish. We out played them, got runners on base but just couldn’t get a hit when we needed one,” said Seegert. “I just don’t know what to say. We win as a team and we lost as a team. But I am especially disappointed for the team, and the seniors, to have it end this way. I thought we really outplayed them.”
The Hornets’ record is 17-10 on the year. They will close out their season when they have the softball banquet in the next few days. The sting of this loss will pass and the young ladies on the team will move onto whatever is next for them. For Alexander, there will be summer softball and then onto Central Michigan University to play more softball.
Ladies, congratulations on your season. Your school and community thanks you. And for the last time this season, the Saline Post Three Stars.
SALINE POST THREE STARS:
1st Star: SENIORS: Ashley Heren, Kelsey Alexander & Danielle Cobello
2nd Star: JUNIORS: Regan Cox, Alexandra Pace, Emma Schwartzenberger, Amanda Jedele, Isabelle Darmos, Isabelle Stephenson, Codi McPeek & Madison Shelton
3rd Star: SOPHOMORES: Elaina Walker, Abigail Kleinschmidt, Sara Owen, Ava Hoffman