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Deep Ravenna lineup flexes extra-base power in softball quarterfinal victory vs. Buchanan

Bulldogs advance to state semifinals with 12-6 win in 15-hit attack. Nine hits went for extra bases.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

GRAND RAPIDS — Ravenna’s softball team took not one, but two batting practice sessions Tuesday in preparation for its Division 3 state quarterfinal against Buchanan.

The Bulldogs hit in the morning when they assembled for team breakfast, then they hit in the cage at Cornerstone University prior to the game.

They never stopped hitting. It carried over to the game. Ravenna rapped out 15 hits, including nine of them for extra bases — two home runs and a double by sophomore all-stater Emma Herremans — en route to a 12-6 victory in front a throng of blue-and-white-clad fans.

The win advances the Bulldogs (36-5) to the state semifinals for the first time since 2005. They’ll face Standish-Sterling (36-7), a 3-1 quarterfinal winner over Gladstone in nine innings, in the Division 3 semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.

“At the beginning of the season, we passed out cards and (it had) a picture of Michigan State, Secchia Stadium — that’s where we wanted to end up,” Ravenna coach Dave Sherman said. “They get to go there now because they’ve worked so hard, because they’ve put in the time.”

Herremans got it started for the Bulldogs in the top of the first inning, launching a laser of a two-run home run over the fence in right-center field.

Fourth-ranked Buchanan (38-5) responded like the tough team it is, scoring two runs right away in its half of the first to tie it up and taking a 3-2 lead in the third on a homer by Hannah Herman.

Ravenna answered in a major way in the fourth, breaking the game open. The Bulldogs got a spark from the No. 8 hitter in their lineup, sophomore Amelia Porter, who slammed a two-run double to right field to put her team back in front.

Ravenna softball’s Amelia Porter poses for a photo during the Bulldogs’ media day session Friday, March 24, 2023, at CatchMark Technologies in Whitehall, Mich. (Billy Mann | CatchMark)

“Anyone can be the spark, anyone can start off a huge inning. There’s no holes,” Herremans said.

Other big hits in Ravenna’s fourth-inning uprising included senior Emma Gillard’s RBI double and sophomore sister Addison Gillard’s bases-clearing triple.

Buchanan chipped away at Ravenna’s 9-3 lead and pulled within three runs in the fifth, but Herremans clubbed her second homer of the day leading off the sixth and the Bulldogs tacked on two more runs in the seventh.

“There was no giving up today,” Herremans said.

Herremans, a sweet-swinging lefty hitter, was 3-for-4 Tuesday following up her 6-for-6 performance in Saturday’s regional at Newaygo. Add in a 4-for-6 effort in the district, and the Bulldogs’ three-hole hitter is 13-for-16 in five games during this state tournament run.

On the season, she is batting .661 with a 1.214 slugging percentage, 22 doubles, eight triples, eight home runs and 73 RBIs.

Ravenna softball’s Emma Herremans poses for a photo during the Bulldogs’ media day session Friday, March 24, 2023, at CatchMark Technologies in Whitehall, Mich. (Billy Mann | CatchMark)

“I wouldn’t want to pitch to us,” Sherman said straight-faced, then chuckled. “I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to pitch to us. One through nine, any given day, someone can find a gap or find something down the line, put a bunt down — something like that. Any given day.”

In Saturday’s 8-1 regional final over sixth-ranked Grandville Calvin Christian, Ravenna unveiled a small-ball approach with a well-executed bunting game.

On Tuesday, the Bulldogs were swinging away.

“We’ve hit for power all year long, we’ve hit gaps all year long. Now they’re showing that they can bunt a little bit, move runners, score runners from third hitting the ball (to the right side),” Sherman said. “They just play the game the right way.”

Ravenna has not been ranked in the top 10 of the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Division 3 poll at all this season, although the Bulldogs have appeared in the honorable mention list.

The Bulldogs have another ranked team in their sights now, No. 10 Standish-Sterling, and they do not plan on changing their approach: Playing with something to prove.

“Play as hard as we can … take in the moment,” Emma Gillard said. “The job’s not done, though. Two more games, baby — two more games.”

Ravenna seniors, from left, Emma Gillard, Alexis McMahon, Kara Postema and Ellie Solem pose for a photo after the Bulldogs defeated Buchanan, 12-6, in a Division 3 softball state quarterfinal Tuesday, June 13, 2023, at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Here are more details from Tuesday’s game:

  • Emma Gillard finished 3-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI and two runs scored. She also picked up the pitching win, allowing six runs (five earned) on 10 hits with two strikeouts and no walks in four innings.
  • Senior Kara Postema was 2-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored.
  • Addison Gillard was 3-for-5 with a double, triple, four RBIs and one run scored. She also pitched three scoreless innings of relief.
  • Junior Kendra Denhof was 1-for-3 with an RBI.
  • Freshman Riley Homoly was 1-for-3 with a double and run scored.
  • Senior Ellie Solem was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
  • Amelia Porter finished 1-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored.
  • For Buchanan, Herman finished 3-for-4 with a double, home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. Camille Lozmack went 2-for-4 with two doubles for the Bucks. Hailee Kara took the loss, allowing all 12 runs (seven earned) with five strikeouts and three walks.
  • Buchanan was Division 3 state runner-up two years ago, falling to Richmond 2-1 in the finals. In that game, Kara hit a home run.

Listen to a replay of CatchMark SportsNet’s audio stream of the game here:

Finally, big props to Shelley Gillard, who rescued the CatchMark audio crew and their equipment by providing a canopy and sheltering them from the raindrops. Shelley is the mother of Ravenna players Emma and Addison Gillard.

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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