Saline softball wins program's first regional title with 4-2 win over Allen Park
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Alyssa Heren was already having one of the best hitting days of her life before the final at-bat of Saturday’s regional final game.
So when Allen Park intentionally walked No. 4 hitter Katie Alexander with two outs in the bottom of the fifth to get to Heren, she had motivation on top of confidence.
Heren laced a two-run triple to give Saline a two-run lead that held up in a 4-2 win over Allen Park Saturday afternoon at Saline High School.
“I don’t think they really thought that I would be able to hit her,” Heren said. “I kind of took it personally, it just made me strive to do better.”
The win, which followed an 8-2 regional semifinal win over Southgate Anderson, gave Saline its first regional title in program history. The Hornets (33-2) advance to play Mattawan (32-8), noon Tuesday at Michigan State University in a state quarterfinal game. Mattawan beat Dexter, 10-0, in a regional final Saturday.
Behind an offense that produced hits in 12 of 13 innings Saturday and an ace pitcher, Saline has turned what was a promising squad at the beginning of the year into a record-breaking one.
“Everyone had confidence in a title, and we knew we would be able to make history for the school,” said Heren, who played with stitches above her eye after taking a ball off the face Monday in Monroe.
Heren’s hit, which capped off a 6-for-7 hitting day, completed a three-run fifth inning that saw Saline overcome its only deficit of the state tournament.
But Allen Park also had the early momentum after a key play in the field. With one out in the third, Saline’s Sam Bruley hit a ball to the right field wall, and tried to make it all the way home before being thrown out on a close play at the plate.
Allen Park went on to score two runs in the top of the fourth and take the lead.
“My worry was that I gave them the fire from letting them throw her out at home,” Saline coach Alicia Seegert said. “But I liked where we were in our batting order, so I knew we had a chance to do some more good things.”
But Saline’s bats turned the tide in the fifth. After Bruley singled with one out, Laura Vaccaro hit a game-tying RBI single, her third RBI hit of the game.
After the intentional walk and triple, Allen Park coach Patsy Curnell appealed that Heren missed first base on the triple, and was eventually thrown out of the game.
“I touched it,” Heren said. “I didn’t hit the top of the base, I hit the side.”
The first time the two teams played in Saline April 27, Alexander hit a three-run home run and Saline won, 3-0. That likely earned her the fifth-inning intentional walk the second time around.
But on Saturday, hits were coming from throughout the lineup.
“The nice thing about today, which we haven’t seen in the last couple of weeks is everybody hit, 1-9,” Seegert said. “And you didn’t know who was going to put the ball in play, so it was awesome.”
Saline pitcher Kristina Zalewski, coming off a no-hitter in Monday’s district final against Monroe, threw all 13 innings, giving up three earned runs and eight hits with 17 strikeouts.
The Michigan State-bound senior will now have a chance to pitch at what will be her home field for the next two years.
“That’s awesome, I’m excited,” Zalewski said. “I hope my coach comes out.”
Heren led the Hornets with three hits in the semifinal game, finishing a single short of the cycle. She led off the second inning by hitting a ball over the head of the Titans’ centerfielder and came around to score on an inside-the-park home run.
Vaccaro had four RBIs on two two-run singles in the first game, and Kaylee Harmon added two hits. Bruley finished with three hits in the second game and one in the first.
In the first game, Zalewski faced the minimum through four, and struck out seven of the first nine batters she faced. She gave up two runs in the sixth, one earned, but allowed only one more hit in the sixth and seventh.