Eddies unable to recover after rough start

EDWARDSBURG — Edwardsburg softball coach Todd Tighe had to make an early visit to the pitcher's mound in Saturday's Division 2 regional semifinal game against Vickburg.

Trailing 4-0 with one out in the second inning, Tighe wanted to settle his team down and prevent further damage from the Bulldogs. Vicksburg added a run in the second and those early runs were more than enough, as the Bulldogs prevailed, 5-0.

Edwardsburg ends the year with a 25-12 record, whlle the No. 4-ranked and defending state runners-up Bulldogs moved on to regional final play with a 34-7 record.

It's the second straight year that Edwardsburg has lost to Vicksburg in regional semifinal play. Last year, the Bulldogs prevailed, 9-4.

The Eddies lost six seniors from last year's team, with all six of those players now playing college softball. The Bulldogs returned eight starters from last year's squad.

"I think we were a little nervous," said Tighe about the first two innings. "We're a young team. But we battled the entire game. Obviously, Vicksburg is one of the top teams in the state. They were in the state title game last year."

Three errors in the first two innings by Edwardsburg led to three unearned runs for Vicksburg.

"We made a couple errors at the beginning of the game and found ourselves in a hole," Tighe said.

In the first, the Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead after getting an RBI single from Brooklynn Ringler and an RBI double from Peyton Smith.

In the second, Vicksburg took a 3-0 lead on Ella Luegge's RBI single and also scored a run on Emily Zemitans' bunt and on an Edwardsburg throwing error.

"It's always important to get off to a good start because it's a momentum builder," said Vicksburg coach Paul Gephart, who saw his team get seven hits from seven different players.

"Once you get ahead you can mix things up and you have a lot more options to do things. A lead early pumps your team up and can make the other team a little flat."

Edwardsburg was only able to get four hits off of Vicksburg starter Delaney Monroe. The Bulldogs senior struck out six and walked none.

"Their pitcher Monroe is a stud," Tighe said. "She kind of held us in check the rest of the game. We had runners on first and second two or three times and couldn't score any runs."

With two outs in the top of the first, Kourtney Zarycki and Lani Hardin each singled for Edwardsburg. A groundout back to Monroe eventually ended that scoring threat.

Edwardsburg had even better scoring opportunity in the fifth inning. With one out, Mia Castelucci and Brynn Young each singled. Number nine hitter Kendal Hulett then came to the plate and worked a 3-1 count. Hulett laid down a bunt and was retired, putting runners on second and third with two outs. Those runners were left stranded, as Ella Zache popped out to the catcher to end the inning.

Tighe was asked if Hulett made the decision on her own to bunt in the fifth.

"I called that," the Eddies coach said. "We wanted to move the runners. Ella Zache was the next batter up and she's been a big hitter for us. We were trying to cut the lead in half right there. I was pretty confident with (Zache) coming up that we would get something out of her."

Tighe got some great relief work out of sophomore Makhaya Heflin. Over four and two-thirds innings, Heflin allowed no runs, two hits, struck out two and walked one.

"She was lights out," Tighe said about Heflin. "She was able to keep their batters off balance. Her change-up was on so we stuck with that a lot. She's also got a curve ball and screw ball. She held them in check the rest of the game. We just couldn't get any offense going."

Tighe was asked it was close between starter Victoria Pulling and Heflin when it came to choosing a starter for Saturday's game.

"We have five pitchers on our team," Tighe said. "It was pretty close between all five. I was up last night kicking it around. We decided to with Pulling. She's been our number one all year and she didn't pitch bad today. Vicksburg is just a good hitting team. They're used to that speed. A lot of their girls play travel ball."

The future looks bright for Edwardsburg, as the Eddies lose only seniors Sydney Klaer and Lexi Schimpa from this year's team.

"We have six subs on the bench who are young too," Tighe said. "We have a very strong team coming back. I'm super excited to get back to work with the team in the winter time. Our goal every year will be to win a state title."





Victoria Pulling (L), Makhaya Heflin (2); Delaney Monroe (W, 6 K's).

Vicksburg: 2B — Peyton Smith, Audrie Dugan. Runs — Maddison Diekman 2.

Records: Edwardsburg 25-12, Vicksburg 34-7.