Gladstone holds off Squires, makes return to to D3 semis

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press The Gladstone softball team celebrates a thrilling 2-1 state quarterfinal victory over Grandville Calvin Christian Tuesday at Petoskey.

PETOSKEY — The Gladstone softball team hasn’t been used to close games lately, winning by an average margin of 13.4 runs over the past five games.

That changed Tuesday as the Braves squeaked by Grandville Calvin Christian 2-1 in a Division 3 quarterfinal that was suspenseful right up until the last out.

“You don’t know how teams are going to react in games like this,” said Gladstone coach John Nevala. “They haven’t had too many close ones either so we just happened to have more clutch hitting then they did.

“Both teams played great and I’m sure the fans enjoyed themselves. I’m glad to come out on top especially for those girls. I’m so happy for those girls.”

Gladstone will face Napoleon Friday in a state semifinal game at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Gladstone's Alyssa Polley swings at a pitch Tuesday during a state quarterfinal game at Petoskey against Grandville Calvin Christian.

The Braves entered the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead and a chance to close it out as the Squires looked to make a comeback and they came close.

Kim Moelker started off hitting for the Squires in that inning with a single and was moved over to second later in the inning.

Kennedy Stevens hit a double but Moelker was held up at third as Alyssa Polley delivered a nice throw from center field to keep the tying run from scoring.

“When they had a runner on second and they got the hit to center field I thought for sure they were going to send the runner home,” said Nevala. “But Polley put the throw on her and it would’ve been a close play.”

Calvin Christian’s next batter popped up to shortstop Taylor Hunter to end the game and send the Braves to the state semifinals.

“We had it set up where we had a chance again and we got the big hit to keep it going and we had the top of our order coming up,” said Calvin Christian coach Mike Gruppen. “That’s the way you want to set it up and we just didn’t come through this time.”

The Squires led off the scoring with a RBI double from Sara Elderkin in the fourth inning in a game that saw little offense up until that point.

The Braves answered in the bottom half of the fourth inning with two runs of their own off a double from Jenna Steinhoff that scored two runs.

Steinhoff also pitched all seven innings allowing six hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

“You know my MVP was Jenna Steinhoff,” said Nevala. “She pitched a great game and she hit the two RBIs so I can’t say enough about her.”

Kaleigh Whitcomb pitched all six innings for Calvin Christian as she allowed five hits and had eight strikeouts.

Kaitlyn Hardwick had two hits for the Braves including a triple in the sixth inning.

Moelker and Elderkin each had two hits for the Squires.

This is the second year in a row Gladstone has made the state semifinal game and Nevala hopes a close game like this gives his team momentum into its next game.

“They’re excited now and a close game like that will help them keep the momentum going into the semis,” said Nevala. “All you can do is go down there and play our best and hopefully get a win.”