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Much like season, Ravenna softball team battled to end in quarterfinal loss to Buchanan

Young Bulldogs squad kept fighting, even when odds were stacked against them, down to their very last out.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

KALAMAZOO — The seventh-inning rally Tuesday at Kalamazoo College encapsulated the fighting spirit of the 2024 Ravenna softball team.

When the Bulldogs’ backs were against the wall, they did not go away quietly. They kept battling. They nearly wrote one more remarkable chapter.

The young Ravenna softball team fell short against a veteran Buchanan squad, 3-1, in a Division 3 state quarterfinal game.

Down to their final out, the Bulldogs mounted a spirited rally that came within a matter of feet from perhaps resulting in a comeback for the ages.

Buchanan (35-5) avenged last year’s 12-6 quarterfinals loss to Ravenna. The third-ranked Bucks advance to Friday’s 12:30 p.m. semifinal at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium, where they’ll take on fourth-ranked Evart (35-4).

Fifth-ranked Ravenna, whose roster featured four freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors, and lone senior Kendra Denhof, close with a 33-9 record.

Junior slugger Emma Herremans, the Bulldogs’ first-team all-stater as a freshman and sophomore, suffered a serious knee injury on May 4 and missed the rest of the season. Junior pitcher/infielder Addison Gillard, who was all-state honorable mention last year, suffered an ankle injury that limited her down the stretch.

“We fight. We didn’t give up,” said Denhof, the Bulldogs’ right field and No. 6 hitter in the lineup. “After injuries, after hard losses, we just kept fighting and pushing through and working with what we had and continued to grow stronger.”

Ravenna’s nine losses this year came to the following opponents:

  • Two vs. Division 2 Coopersville, which finished 28-9 (one a walk-off);
  • Two vs. Division 2 Wayland, which finished 28-8-1 (one a walk-off);
  • One to Division 1 Reeths-Puffer, which finished 34-5-1;
  • One to Division 1 Grand Haven, which finished 31-9;
  • Two to Division 3 fourth-ranked Evart, which is 35-4 and in the state semifinals (one-run and two-run losses, one in extra innings);
  • One to Division 3 third-ranked Buchanan, which is 35-5 and in the state semifinals.

Ravenna ran away with another West Michigan Conference Rivers Division title and third straight district championship. The Bulldogs captured a second straight regional title with two tight victories. They finish with 30-plus wins for a third consecutive season.

Among the highlights were a 3-0 win over Oakridge in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association Tier 1 tournament, a sweep of Division 4 state semifinalist Holton in WMC Rivers play (6-2 and 18-3), capturing the Kubasiak Neighborhood Tournament title with a 5-0 victory over Cedar Springs in the finals, and four shutouts of state-ranked opponents Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (6-0 and 3-0) and Hudsonville Unity Christian (1-0 and 6-0) in the same week.

“Although we were young, we were electric, spicy, spunky. We were electric throughout the whole season,” Herremans said. “They brought it, even though they were younger. The underclassmen really showed who they were, how strong they were. It’s a team that made more history for Ravenna softball, making it back to the quarterfinals, and they stayed strong throughout the entire game, too.”

Said Gillard: “I think some people underestimated our team because we were so young, but I think we showed that we worked real hard to get here and to be the team that we are.”

On Tuesday, Ravenna took a 1-0 lead over Buchanan in the third inning when freshman leadoff Reese Herremans walked, stole second, advanced to third on sophomore Emily Postema’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on freshman Sydney Morrissey’s sacrifice fly.

The score remained that way until the bottom of the fifth, when Michigan State University commit Hannah Herman took a 3-2 pitch with two out and hit it hard up the middle, clearing the bases, and giving Buchanan a 3-1 advantage.

In the top of the seventh, Ravenna made two quick outs, but the Bulldogs weren’t done. Sophomore Raelyn Olsen walked and freshman Natalie Rosel singled on a line drive up the middle. Reese Herremans made a bid for a go-ahead home run, but she pulled it left of the left-field foul pole. She then singled to load the bases. Postema drove the ball to deep left-center field, but Buchanan center fielder Caitlyn Horvath reached up and made a running catch to deny a bases-clearing extra-base hit and seal the win for the Bucks.

“This group is special, without a doubt,” Sherman said. “They fight, fight, fight constantly. With some of the injuries we dealt with this year, they still fought, fought, fought no matter what. (In the seventh-inning rally) two balls there, one propably six feet away (from being a home run) and one two feet away from being a 4-3 ball game with two outs. This group’s a great, great group.”

Reese Herremans finished 2-for-3 to lead Ravenna, while Gillard, Denhof, Rosel, and freshman Taylor Nutt also had hits.

The left-handed Rosel took the pitching loss, allowed three earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts and one walk in six innings against the senior-laden Buchanan lineup, which features two Division I college recruits.

Denhof also made a run-saving catch of a line drive in the second field for Ravenna. In her four-year varsity career, she wore many hats for the Bulldogs.

“Kendra’s a leader — positive always,” Herremans said about Denhof. “I’ll miss her, going off to Florida (for college), but I know she’ll be back in the spring, being our biggest fan, helping lead Ravenna softball to be as good as we are starting in travel for the first time with me and Addy. She stayed through softball the whole, entire time, and starting Ravenna at its finest.”

Added Gillard about Denhof: “I’m going to really miss her. She used to be my old catcher all the time. She really knows how to calm me down and pick me up and she’s going to be very missed.”

Sherman said that Denhof played four different positions and hit in multiple spots in the lineup.

The Ravenna coach said that Denhof was the most positive person he’s seen, taking the worst possible situation and finding something positive to say.

The upperclassmen on Ravenna’s team always encouraged the younger players.

“They just kind of pull their shoes on, socks up, however that saying is, and they just play,” Sherman said. “Very proud of them.

“You can look at how young we were, obviously just losing one senior,” Sherman said. “Anything can happen any given year, but you can look at this game and see that there’s a bright future in Ravenna softball.”

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

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