Photos by Bethany McCullough | CatchMark
MUSKEGON – In a matchup where the margin for error was small and all the little things were magnified, some big swings by Oakridge’s softball team made a huge difference.
With their backs against the wall late in both games of a West Michigan Conference doubleheader vs. visiting Ravenna Wednesday, the Eagles dug deep with some long drives.
Four home runs in the late innings, two of them grand slams, wiped out deficits for Oakridge and powered the Eagles to a sweep of the Bulldogs, 11-6 and 9-6, in a showdown of unbeatens. The CatchMark SportsNet Competition of the Week, rescheduled from a rain-soaked Tuesday, lived up to its billing.
In the first game, Oakridge erased a 5-0 deficit with an 11-run outburst in the fifth inning that featured a two-run home run by senior Jasmine Pastor, grand slam by junior Andrea Romero-Serrano and three-run shot by sophomore Madison Clark. In the second game, the Eagles overcame a 6-3 deficit on the strength of Pastor’s grand slam in the sixth inning.
“We talk all the time about staying even-keel when we’re up or down. We were down a lot today, both games, and they just kept an even keel about them. We talk about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations and they’re buying in,” said veteran Oakridge coach Joe Coletta, who returned to the program this season after stepping away for a couple years.
“They think we’ve always got a shot with some of the kids in our lineup.”
With the pair of wins, Oakridge improves to 13-0 overall and has the inside track to a sixth-straight conference title at 8-0. Ravenna is now 16-2 and 8-2, respectively. Oakridge and Ravenna shared the league championship last year, when the Bulldogs snapped the Eagles’ 65-game conference winning streak.
The rivals could see each other again Saturday. The Eagles and Bulldogs are seeded first and second, respectively, in Tier 1 of the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament at Reeths-Puffer.
“I think after tonight, (the Bulldogs will) want to play them again. Who knows what happens with that (tournament),” Ravenna coach Dave Sherman said. “They love the challenge of playing this team. Great team over there, great team over (here). They got the hits that they needed tonight.”
Ravenna junior ace Emma Gillard kept Oakridge at bay through the first four innings of the first game before the Eagles erupted. Romero-Serrano had three hits in the game, including the grand slam and a double. Clark had two hits, as did senior winning pitcher Brooklyn Galdeen, who doubled twice.
Freshman Addison Gillard went 3-for-5 with two doubles to pace the Bulldogs in Game 1. Senior Maddie Kilbourne had two hits, while freshman Emma Herremans and junior Kara Postema each doubled.
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
In the second game, Pastor had two hits, punctuated by the grand slam. Freshman Brenna Cabrera also had two hits for Oakridge, while Clark, Galdeen, and sophomores Mallori Whipple and Ahria Doornbos all delivered run-scoring singles. Freshman Kylee Willea notched the win for the Eagles.
For Ravenna, Herremans went 3-for-4, as did losing pitcher Addison Gillard, who had a double. Emma Gillard and Kilbourne had two hits apiece, while senior Liberty Willick doubled off the base of the fence.
“It was really nice playing someone that’s better than we’ve played (so far this season),” Pastor said. “We can see what our team could actually do in the bigger games.”
Said Romero-Serrano: “I think it’s a great lift honestly. I think this is going to make us, like, so much better in the long run. It was a lot adversity for us, but we overcame it, so it was great.”
Beyond the play on the field, Wednesday was a picture-perfect day for softball.
With the sun shining and temperatures climbing above 60 degrees in the midst of a cold spring season, large crowds on both sides made for a lively environment.
“The atmosphere was great. The weather was great, finally. We knew it was going to be electric. Anytime these two schools get together, it brings out the best,” said Coletta, a former longtime assistant football coach for Oakridge.
“Ravenna’s got a really good team – a really good team – and there was a lot of really good players on both teams here today. So anybody who watched this game, these games, saw some high-caliber softball. I’m proud of our girls. I know Ravenna’s coaches should be proud of their girls. They’re a solid team and they’re going to do some big things, I’m confident.”
Now the teams turn their attention toward Saturday’s GMAA tourney, which Oakridge has won five straight seasons. The Eagles, ranked seventh in Division 2 of the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association polls, also have captured five consecutive district titles.
Ravenna, which surprisingly is nowhere to be found in the Division 3 rankings, realizes the West Michigan Conference title is most likely out of reach now. The Bulldogs still believe they can make some noise the rest of the way.
“There is a lot of season left. We’ve got the county tournament coming up, we’ve got districts – we’re hoping to make a deep run in that playoff,” Sherman said. “We fell a little short on that first goal, which was conference. I mean, there’s still four games left to go – anything’s possible with that.
“We start tomorrow that next goal. It was a good test. That’s a good team over there – a really good team over there.”
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