Dexter softball's record-breaking season ends in regional final loss
By Scott DeCamp | firstname.lastname@example.org
GRAND LEDGE - Allie Havers' overall pitching performance during Saturday's Division 1 softball regional at Grand Ledge was about as flawless as one can get in two games. In a word, it was dominant.
The Mattawan senior right-hander seemed to hit nearly all of her spots during a 10-0, five-inning win over Dexter during the afternoon's championship game. She allowed only two Dreadnaughts singles and faced the minimum number of batters.
In the morning, Havers was near-perfect during a 9-0 semifinal victory over Jackson. She carried a perfect game through 5 1/3, allowed only a bloop infield single to a Vikings pinch-hitter and finished with a one-hitter.
Scott DeCamp | MLive Media Group
"She's strong, very athletic obviously, but also in very good physical condition, so that helps out, too," Wildcats coach Alicia Smith said about the 6-foot-5 University of Nebraska basketball signee, who is a three-sport, first-team all-stater and was a finalist for Michigan Miss Basketball and Miss Volleyball awards.
"She's done really well the last two weeks and she's even gotten better since the regular season."
The day was about as perfect as it could get for Mattawan (32-8), which fired on all cylinders en route to capturing its third straight regional title. The Wildcats totaled 24 hits on the day and committed no errors in securing a berth to Tuesday's noon state quarterfinals against Saline (33-2) at Michigan State University's Secchia Stadium.
The only Wildcats misfire Saturday - and it was more comical than anything -- was when a changeup slipped out of Havers' hand, sailed over the catcher's and plate umpire's heads, and hit the backstop on the fly in the game against Dexter (24-10).
"I don't know what happened," the easy-going Havers said with a smirk.
Havers (22-5) was virtually untouchable. She struck out 16 and walked none in the two games combined. Only one runner reached second base all day.
"You've got to give it to Mattawan. My hat's off to them. That's a great team," said Dexter coach Mark Whitley, whose squad claimed its program's first district title in 26 years. "We've got a girl throwing at us that's got offers for Ohio State to play volleyball, she's got offers for Nebraska to play basketball and I'm pretty sure she could play softball anywhere she wanted.
"My hat's off to them. They played well. They've got great hitters, they play good defense. They're just a good team."
Mattawan is far from a one-person team, and the Wildcats are peaking at the right time. They're two wins from a third consecutive Division 1 state finals berth after winning it all in 2011 and finishing runner-up last season.
In Saturday's regional finals, Mattawan jumped ahead in the first with two runs and scored in all five innings. Speedy leadoff batter Kyla Nickrent set the tone with three hits, including a double, and three runs. Junior No. 5 hitter Kara Suwarsky doubled, singled and totaled three RBIs in only two at-bats.
"It starts with Kyla - Kyla really sets it," Suwarsky said. "First she gets on and then it goes from there. SJ's (Sarah Johnson) a power hitter, Abby (Stoner), Havers, and it's really nice following a great group of girls (in the batting order)."
During the semifinals win over Jackson (26-9), senior No. 3 hitter Abby Stoner ripped a two-run home run to highlight the Wildcats' six-run first. Havers had three hits, including a double and two-run round-tripper. Suwarsky and junior Emma Toner had RBI doubles, Johnson doubled and junior Rachel Finnerty singled twice.
From top to bottom, Mattawan's lineup did not seem to skip a beat.
"We're finally putting things together and it's clicking very easily," said Nickrent, a junior shortstop and three-year varsity veteran.
Dexter, meanwhile, had to exert a lot of energy just to get to the matchup with Mattawan. The Dreadnaughts defeated East Lansing in walk-off fashion, 3-2 in nine innings (Boxscore). Aubree Whitley's line single to left field scored Anna Love with the winning run.
Natasha Drinkard earned the pitching win in relief for the Dreadnaughts during the semifinal, allowing two earned runs on four hits, striking out four and walking none. Whitley (11-2) took the loss in the finals, surrendering three earned runs on two hits in one inning.
Brooke Lupi and Taylor Passamani accounted for the two hits in the championship game for Dexter, which will return 10 of its 15 players from the roster for next season.
"It's a good year, it's a great ride. We played a phenomenal first (regional) game, never gave up, battled," Mark Whitley said. "I thought everybody just played their hearts out in that first one - it may have taken a little juice out of us. We weren't able to rest, and when you're playing a team like Mattawan, you need to be able to rest a little bit."
Mattawan will have little time to rest. The Wildcats will have only two days between games. Saline was ranked No. 8 in the final Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Division 1 poll, while Mattawan was honorable mention.
Good news for the Wildcats: They seem to be getting stronger as the season progresses.
"Honestly, I think it's a mentality. We've been preparing a lot - practices have been harder and the girls have just worked their tails off," Havers said. "I mean, they're great. What we have this year, all 17 of us work hard.
"I think it's just the togetherness ...," Havers added. "I feel like we're playing fearless right now. Of course, there's going to be mistakes made - every professional baseball players make them - but we just pick each other up."