On paper, the Allen Park Cabrini vs. Riverview Gabriel Richard Division 3, District 86 final appeared to be a mismatch.
As for Richard, the team had won only five games before Saturday.
With that said, a fired-up group of Pioneers took the field to face their local rivals. When the dust settled it was Richard hoisting the championship trophy after a hard-fought 4-3 victory in extra innings.
The big blast came in the top of the ninth when the Pioneers’ Sarah Collins stepped to the plate.
The freshman swung at the first offering from Cabrini pitcher Mackenzie Noah and drilled it over the fence in center. Her solo shot proved to be the game-winning run, as the Monarchs couldn’t answer in the bottom half of the inning.
“We preach ‘(stay) together’ all year, stay together, and they did it,” said first-year Richard coach Vince Alessandrini. “We preach family and that’s what they did.”
With the win, the Pioneers (7-18-1) moved on to face Detroit Cristo Rey in a regional semifinal on Saturday.
“I feel good,” Alessandrini said. “Chelsea (Collins) is pitching really good, (Sharmaye Becraft) is pitching really good. We’re playing well and we’re starting to get timely hitting that we didn’t get all year and now we’re putting it together.”
Starting in the circle on Saturday for Richard was Chelsea Collins, who was solid all day. She struck out eight batters and allowed only six hits, one walk and two earned runs in a full nine innings of work.
Noah was also strong in the circle for the Monarchs (25-5), as she fanned 10 batters and gave up eight hits, one walk and four earned runs in nine innings.
To advance to the championship game, Richard knocked off Ecorse earlier in the day by a score of 15-0 in three innings. Cabrini didn’t play a semifinal game.
The Pioneers, who never trailed against the Monarchs, went up 1-0 in the top of the second after Becraft led off with a triple and Abby Hand knocked her in with a sacrifice fly.
In the top of the third, a bloop single off the bat of Richard’s Jayden Kellogg scored Joslyn Kaiser from second.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, Becraft stole second base. Soon after she raced home on a single from Hand and put her team up 3-0.
The Monarchs mounted a comeback in the sixth and seventh innings.
Cabrini’s first run came in the sixth when Michaleigh Vallimont doubled and plated Emma DelCotto. With one out in the inning, and Vallimont on third, Mackenzie Schick dropped a bunt. The throw went to first to get Schick, which gave Vallimont time to race home and she slid in safely.
In the bottom of the seventh, and still down by a run, two different Cabrini hitters came through in a two-strike, two-out situation.
With two outs, and a full count, Wyndhem Reid hit a hard grounder that was misplayed and she reached base safely.
The next hitter, Madison Buerkle, fell behind in the count 1-2. However, she got around on the next pitch and hit a single that brought Reid home from second with the game-tying run and forced extra innings.
The Monarchs mounted a threat in the bottom of the eighth but couldn’t cash in.
Lillian Vallimont walked later stole second.
Vivianna Gonzalez hit a ball hard to the left side that looked like it might get through. Becraft, at shortstop, made a diving stop. She didn’t have time to get Gonzalez at first, but more importantly it kept the runner at third.
Chelsea Collins then got out of the jam with a strikeout and sent the game to the ninth inning.
Noah struck out the first Richard hitter in the top of the ninth. But next up was Sarah Collins, who stepped in and hammered her first pitch over the fence to put the Pioneers up 4-3.
In the bottom half of the inning, Reid got on base for Cabrini with a one-out single. However, a pair of ground balls quickly ended the Monarchs hopes and sent the Pioneers on to the regional round to face Detroit Cristo Rey at 10 a.m. on June 8 at Wixom St. Catherine.
For Cabrini, it wrapped up a season that included a league title and a trip to the CHSL A-B championship game, where the team fell by only a run against Warren Regina.
Despite the tough defeat on Saturday, Monarchs coach Debbie Norman was pleased with what she saw from her young squad, which only had two seniors.
“I thought they performed well,” she said. “When you come into states it’s always down to one game and anything can happen. I thought today they did a tremendous job of battling back. They were in a hole and they did a tremendous job of battling back.”