Softball: Coe-Brown outlasts John Stark again, advances to Saturday’s D-II championship
|Published: 06-07-2023 10:25 AM
PLYMOUTH – No. 2 Coe-Brown led No. 3 John Stark 5-3 in the top of the seventh, an out away from punching its ticket to the Division II softball championship for the second year in a row.
But the Generals’ Savannah Chapman kept her team’s season alive, lining a double to right-center field. Kira Linstad, already 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored, came to bat as the tying run.
Facing Madison DeCota, one of the top pitchers in D-II softball all year, Linstad laced a pitch to right field. The Bears’ Haile Comeau secured the catch and came up firing back to second where Chapman had strayed too far off the bag. An emphatic out call from the umpire for the double play, and a 5-3 win for Coe-Brown (15-3) in the D-II semifinals.
The defending champions’ hopes of repeating remain alive. Comeau is a major reason why.
In addition to the double play to end the game, she was 2-for-3 at the plate with a two-run double that got the Bears on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third and a triple to lead off the fifth; she also scored two runs and provided relentless energy in the dugout.
“She is unbelievable. It never stops,” head coach Dave Allis said of Comeau’s enthusiasm during games. “I told her today that I don’t care if she gets a hit if she (provides that energy) the whole game.
“She hits that triple to the fence, and then she makes a couple great plays in the outfield. … She’s just a great player. She’s only a sophomore.”
Meanwhile, DeCota also shined in the circle for the Bears, tossing a complete game, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
Sixty of the 90 pitches she threw were strikes.
“I don’t think she had her (riseball) early, so I think she had to go to some of her secondary pitches,” Allis said. “She’s just a gamer and a winner. She refuses to lose. Everything she does is just 100%.”
The result means the end of road for John Stark (14-4) which just couldn’t quite figure out how to beat the Bears this year; Coe-Brown also won the regular season meeting, 6-4.
A common theme in both: costly errors. The Generals committed three on Tuesday night, including two in Coe-Brown’s four-run third inning.
“We were 14-4 this season, and really all four (losses), we gave the victories away with errors,” Generals’ head coach Denis Kolehmainen said. “I thought we had a good shot this year. Our bats were hot. We don’t strike out a lot. We keep the ball in play. We hit it hard, (but) we just hit it right at people today.”
Tuesday marked the end of Olivia Hargreaves’ career with John Stark. In her final start, she pitched six innings, allowed five runs (three earned), on eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
She finishes her high school career with 497 strikeouts, three shy of a nice round number Kolehmainen said she could’ve hit if he pitched her more; but saving her up for a shot at a championship was more important.
Alas, the Generals fall two wins short of their ultimate goal, but losing by two runs to the defending champions is no reason to sulk.
“I thought it was a great effort from our girls, and it was just a tough loss,” Kolehmainen said. “We hung in there, but you can’t give extra outs to the defending state champions. There’s no way you can do that.”
While John Stark heads home for the summer, the Bears will lace up their cleats one final time in 2023 in the D-II championship game on Saturday night against No. 1 Kingswood, a team they lost to, 7-5, on April 27. The Knights have not lost all season.
But that doesn’t matter at all to Allis. His group has been here before. They know what to expect.
“It’s just another game,” he said. “You can’t take any game too seriously. This game means no more than game two. That’s always been our message. Just play Saturday night like it’s April 1.”