By DAVID GREEN
Have patience. We’re getting the hits; the runs have to follow.
That’s the reasoning that went through the mind of Morenci softball coach Kay Johnson Saturday. The Bulldogs were trailing Homer in a close game, 3-2, but just couldn’t get their runners across home plate.
“I really thought we were going to break it open,” Johnson said later.
Instead, she spent the day Sunday watching mental replays of the regional finals, wondering how her team could come through with 10 hits and score only two runs.
Part of the answer is luck, that one uncontrollable factor when two good softball teams meet.
Morenci had a little bit of luck early on, smacking a pair of base hits outside the reach of Homer infielders, but the Trojans had a little more.
Hits that scooted just under the glove of a Bulldog fielder. Defenders standing in the perfect position to nab a Morenci line drive without taking a step.
Morenci had its share of hits and stranded seven runners on base. Homer came through with only five hits, but the three first-inning runs were all that were necessary to claim a 3-2 victory and a regional tournament crown.
Morenci got on the scoreboard first with singles up the middle by Rachael Rutkowski and Jade Pfund. The Trojans made it 3-1 in the bottom of the first with three hits and a Morenci error.
In the third inning, Brooke Barrett doubled and Rutkowski reached base on a blooper. But Pfund’s line drive went right into the shortstop’s glove and the toss to first ended the inning with a double play.
Nicolette Swimmer reached base on an error in the fourth, but was picked off. Salena Martinez and Meghan Smith each got hits but were left stranded.
In the fifth, Megan Cox put the first pitch into the outfield for a single. Chanler McCaskey went in as base runner and advanced on a bunt by Rutkowski. She scored when Pfund’s hit got passed the shortstop for a 3-2 score.
In the sixth, Mariah Bovee’s liner went directly into a glove and the same happened to Cox in the top of the seventh. That brought the top of Morenci’s order to the plate for a final chance at victory, but only Barrett came through with a hit.
When Johnson saw Homer warming up, she knew the Bulldogs could face a good challenge.
“They have some athletes and they can swing the bats,” she said.
The Trojans got five hits off Pfund on the mound. She struck out five and walked two.
Morenci had no trouble getting passed Ann Arbor Greenhills in the semifinal game. The Gryphons came in with a losing record and were pounded 12-2 in a five-inning contest.
The Bulldogs scored five in the opening inning, highlighted by a two-run homer from Martinez. Barrett opened the inning with a double and Tess Ramsey knocked in two runs on a base hit.
Greenhills answered with a lead-off home run, but they didn’t get much more than that.
Morenci added two more in the bottom of the second on singles by Barrett and Rutkowski and a double from Swimmer.
The Gryphons added one more in the third on a base hit, two Bulldog errors and a bases-loaded single.
Morenci added one in the third after Martinez drew a walk and her runner, Tia Tompkins, scored on a passed ball.
The Bulldogs put the game out of reach in the fourth on a single by Pfund, ground ball fielder’s choice from Swimmer and an error on a ground ball by Ramsey. Martinez drove the ball to the fence to drive in two runs.
Barrett’s base hit in the fifth inning drove Cox to end the contest on the mercy rule.
Pfund struck out nine, walked none and gave up four hits.
Getting to the regional finals was a bonus to Morenci’s season—third in the league with a 22-12 record—but when the chance comes, you want to make the best of it, Johnson said.
“When you get there, you want things to fall into place and it’s disappointing to miss that chance.”
Instead of Morenci, it’s Homer that traveled Tuesday to Adrian College for the quarterfinal contest.