East Lansing — Behind some timely hitting and strong pitching, Bay City Western captured its first state championship Saturday with a 4-2 victory over Portage Central in the Division 1 softball final at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium.
Western (41-3) got on the board early, getting to Portage Central star Gina Verduczo in the first inning.
Verduczo, who threw a no-hitter in the semifinal against Utica Ford on Thursday, hit leadoff hitter Meredith Rousse with a pitch, then Kaylynn Carpenter drove Rousse home with a double to deep center field that just missed going over the wall. Carpenter would move to third on a throwing error and score on a sacrifice fly from pitcher Hannah Leppek to give Western a 2-0 lead.
Leppek was in control on the mound for most of the day, but gave up a solo home run in the third inning to Lea Foerster, who took a rising fastball and drilled it well over the right-field fence.
Leppek would settle in, though, retiring the next 11 batters she faced.
“I just told myself I needed to refocus and not let that get to me,” she said. “I knew this was my last game, so I needed to go out there and have no regrets.”
Leppek helped her cause in the bottom of the sixth inning with a single that sparked a two-run inning. Western strung together four straight hits, including RBI singles from Blair Miller and Melissa Wegener, and stretched its lead to 4-1.
Portage Central (42-4) put up a fight in the seventh, scoring a run when Madyson Cole singled in Meredith Adams. But Leppek struck out Tanner Kiessel to seal the victory for Western.
“I’ve always heard what other coaches say about winning it all, and I’ve always been kind of jealous, but now I know what it feels like,” Western coach Rick Garlinghouse said. “This team’s been through a lot together, and I’m very happy for my girls because they work so hard.”
Gladstone 2, Unionville-Sebewaing 1: Tinner Sharon struck out 12 and Gladstone handed USA its first loss of the season in the title game.
Sharon allowed eight hits and a run while walking no one, and tripled and scored a run. Sadie Strasser and Lexi Hongisto picked up RBIs for Gladstone (30-2), which jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first and scored the winner in the third.
Nicole Bauer and Erica Treiber combined on a four-hitter with nine strikeouts for Unionville-Sebewaing (40-1), whose run came in the first when leadoff hitter Allison Hoppe doubled and came around to score.
Rogers City 3, Kalamazoo Christian 2: Morgan Hall and Alexa Quaine each had a double and single and drove in a run. Nikki Radke went the distance for Rogers City (34-6), giving up five hits and one earned run while striking out three and walking none.
Erica Block drove in a run for Kalamazoo Christian (28-17).
Geoffrey Robinson is a freelance writer; News staff contributed