LAKE — Chris Harper said beforehand he expected Lake to have a big inning. He was right.
The Southeast coach watched from the first base dugout as the Lady Hornets struck for 12 runs in the third inning of Game 1 of the MHSAA Class I slow-pitch semifinals, and eventually mercy-ruled the Lady Tigers in a five-inning, 19-3 victory. While the runs were more spread out in Game 2, Lake again score plenty of them and swept Southeast with a 21-7 win in five innings to book its spot in the championship series.
Harper said his team struggled on offense and defense with the much shorter outfield at Lake High School.
“(Lake) is hard to beat here because this a 200-foot field, and a 202-foot ball goes out,” he said. “We’ve been playing on big fields all year. We’ve been working on hitting line drives, and then when you come here it just changes everything, and (Lake) is used to this field. They just hit it up in the air and it goes over. It’s hard to compete against that.”
Southeast had leads in the first and second inning of Game 1. After leadoff batter Shakira Wilson reached first base on an error, Bre Ruffin doubled before Tyler Williams and Emmy Williams both hit RBI singles to send them home. After Taylor Duncan and Landry LeBlanc hit solo home runs to tie the game for Lake, the Lady Tigers regained the lead when Lauren Pickett’s double scored Akira Causey.
The Lady Hornets then proceeded to score 17 unanswered runs, aided by their monster third inning in which Kaytie Hillman hit a three-run home run and Abbie McGee hit a two-run homer. Laurel Breland and LeBlanc also added RBI singles. Lake led 16-3 after that surge and tacked on three more in the fourth thanks to LeBlanc’s second home run of the contest, a two-run shot, to close out Game 1.
LeBlanc finished 3-for-3 with four RBIs, three runs and a walk, Hillman ended 3-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs, and Duncan went 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs and one run. The Lady Hornets earned 14 total hits, with five coming on home runs.
Emmy Williams had the only multi-hit performance of Game 1 for Southeast, going 2-for-2 with an RBI. Pickett and Taylor Williams each had one RBI, with Shakira Wilson, Ruffin and Causey scoring their team’s three runs. The Lady Tigers managed seven total hits.
Lake carries its momentum into Game 2 and carried it quickly, scoring six runs in the first inning and 17 over the first three. LeBlanc and McGee hit home runs in the opening frames, Hillman had an RBI double and Kate Gladney added an RBI triple. Hillman also smacked a three-run homer in the second before getting a two-run home run in the third as part of a two-out, six-run rally by the Lady Hornets in which LeBlanc hit another homer.
Southeast scored one run in both the second and third inning. Emmy Williams doubled to left field and was driven home by Rileigh Marlow to make the game 11-1, and after Taylor Williams reached base on an error, Katie Moulds batted her in after she reached on an error to make it 18-2.
The Lady Hornets added one run in the fourth inning, and three in the fifth off LeBlanc’s third home run of the game and fifth of the series, and a two-RBI single by McGee. LeBlanc finished the second game 4-for-4 with five RBIs and four runs, and Hillman ended 3-for-4 with six RBIs and three runs. McGee added four RBIs, and Alana Edmonds added four runs. Lake homered six more times in Game 2.
The Lady Tigers rallied for five runs off six hits in their last at-bat but were well short of a comeback. Taylor Williams and Emmy Williams both had RBI singles, and they were then driven home after Moulds reach base on an error. Akira Wilson and Shakira Wilson hit singles and scored in the final frame, and Ruffin made it home after reaching first on a fielder’s choice. Emmy Williams had three of her team’s nine total hits, including a double, and scored twice. Taylor Williams had two runs and Moulds added three RBIs.
“They never quit, never gave up, and I’m real proud of them,” Harper said. “That’s what this team is all about — never quitting, never giving up, and if you do that, you will always have a chance to improve and get better, and play in more big games.”
Harper added that the significant improvement of his squad this season will rub off next spring.
“Where we started at the beginning of the year, to where we are now, is a big plus for them,” he said. “I think it’ll bleed over into fast-pitch.”