Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
MUSKEGON – Kendra Denhof couldn’t lie. She had a few second thoughts once Oakridge started chipping away at Ravenna’s seemingly comfortable lead in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday.
Three days earlier, the Eagles overcame sizable deficits in the late innings to sweep the Bulldogs in a battle of softball unbeatens.
Thanks to clutch at-bats by Denhof, plus the hitting and pitching exploits of Addison Gillard, second-seeded Ravenna had enough cushion to hold off top-seeded Oakridge, 7-4, in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association Tier 1 title game at Reeths-Puffer.
“Definitely got a little nervous. There was definitely like a brick that kind of went on my chest, but I know that my team is going to pull through at the end of the day. There’s nobody else I’d rather have on the field with me,” said Denhof, a spunky 5-foot-2 sophomore, who delivered a two-run single in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie and two-run double in the seventh for some needed cushion.
Timely hitting, including four runs in the seventh, proved crucial for Ravenna (19-2).
Oakridge (15-1) rallied for three runs with two out in the bottom of the seventh on three hits and a Bulldogs error in the inning. Ravenna got out of the jam and snapped Oakridge’s five-year hold on the GMAA Tier 1 championship.
The Bulldogs avenged Wednesday’s 11-6 and 9-6 losses to the Eagles, who used the long ball to rally from 5-0 and 6-3 deficits, respectively, in the pivotal West Michigan Conference doubleheader at Oakridge.
Gillard, a 5-foot-11 freshman, was a catalyst for Ravenna against Oakridge. She went 3-for-4 at the plate with a sharp two-run single in the seventh. The lanky right-hander earned the complete-game pitching win by allowing four runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
“We made it a goal after those games (Wednesday) that we wanted to win this tournament, so it was a great accomplishment for us and we took pride in what we did today,” Gillard said.
Ravenna senior Maddie Kilbourne broke a scoreless tie in the third with an RBI single scoring freshman Amelia Porter. Oakridge answered in the bottom half of the inning on senior Brooklyn Galdeen’s infield single scoring sophomore Ahria Doornbos.
Galdeen led Oakridge with two hits. Sophomore Kaelinn Jozsa had a two-run double, while sophomore Madison Clark also doubled. Freshman Kylee Willea took the pitching loss for the Eagles, allowing 10 hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
Oakridge coach Joe Coletta, a Ravenna native, who is in the school’s athletics hall of fame, said the rivalry against the Bulldogs could change with the West Michigan Conference splitting into two divisions next school year. Both programs appear to have promising futures with young teams now and more talent coming.
“You know, if you’re a competitor, it’s fun. It’s more fun to win ’em, I’m not gonna lie,” Coletta said with a chuckle. “But it’s just unfortunate now we’re going to be in different (divisions) after this year. We won’t have that unless we play in the county tournament, so this is kind of the last hurrah, I think, for the rivalry so to speak.
“We got one on Wednesday and they got one today, so I guess all the fans can go home happy.”
It was a fun and busy weekend for the Bulldogs. Ravenna’s prom was Friday night, then the softball players had to turn around and get ready for the GMAA tourney Saturday morning.
Ravenna defeated conference foe Whitehall, 10-2, in the opener. Freshman Emma Herremans went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a triple, plus she picked up the pitching win. Kilbourne, Denhof and juniors Kara Postema and Ellie Solem all had two hits.
Ravenna beat Reeths-Puffer, 12-2 in six innings, in the second game. Junior Emma Gillard had three hits, including a pair of triples, and she earned the pitching victory. Kilbourne delivered three hits, two of them doubles. Postema had two hits, both doubles.
Oakridge advanced to the GMAA Tier 1 finals with 7-5 and 14-0 wins over Mona Shores and Holton, respectively. Brenna Cabrera had three hits and three RBIs in the first game, while Andrea Romero-Serrano went 4-for-4 with three RBIs in the second game.
Oakridge was ranked No. 7 in the latest Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Division 2 poll. Holton came in at No. 2 in Division 4.
Ravenna swept Holton to start the season and now the Bulldogs have a win over Oakridge. They’re nowhere to be found in the Division 3 rankings but gaining even more confidence as the season progresses.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs got contributions from each member of the lineup one way or another.
“Extremely proud of them because they could have laid down, could have said, ‘Oh, shoot, conference (title hopes are gone),’” Ravenna coach Dave Sherman said. “Could have went a lot of different ways, but they showed up today ready to play softball.
“Hottest day we’ve had, beautiful weather – we’re all going home sunburned and happy, I guess.”
FRUITPORT BEATS NORTH MUSKEGON IN TIER 2
North Muskegon fell to Fruitport, 5-3, in the GMAA Tier 2 championship game Saturday. The Norse scored three runs in the fifth inning to move within striking distance.
Megan Houseman went 3-for-4 to pace North Muskegon. Baila Lang also had multiple hits, including a home run.
Kadence Springstead earned the win for Fruitport, allowing three runs on eight hits with 10 strikeouts.
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