East Lansing — This hurt, and there was disappointment Thursday among the Clarkston softball team.
But you get the feeling Clarkston will be here again within the next few years.
Clarkston infielder Abbey Tolmie after Thursday's 2-1 loss to Grandville. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Grandville advanced to the Division 1 state championship Saturday with a 2-1 victory at Michigan State University.
But the Wolves (32-10), with five freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup, have optimism the future is bright.
“I’m so excited for next year,” first baseman Abbey Tolmie said. “Our motto this year was, ‘We, she, I’. Everybody played for the ‘we’.
“I want to continue that next year.”
Grandville (32-7) plays the winner of the Mattawan-Macomb Dakota game for the Division 1 championship.
Clarkston improved as this season went along, and played some of their best softball late in the season, defeating Utica Eisenhower in the regional finals and Walled Lake Northern in the quarterfinals.
“To get here was hard, they played hard,” Clarkston coach Don Peters said. “They played hard in this game. I’m very proud of them.
“I don’t want to use the young card but there’s a lot of growth and potential in front of those girls.”
A key point in this game was the bottom of the sixth inning, after Grandville had scored twice in the top half of the inning on a two-run throwing error.
With one out, Clarkston loaded the bases on Tolmie’s single, a hit batter, and a walk.
Freshman Sierra Kersten lined a long fly ball to center field that Grandville’s Lexi Dukesherer made a fine running catch.
“I thought it was over her head,” Peters said.
Kersten’s drive scored Tolmie, but Grandville pitcher Ellie Muilenburg worked out of the jam with a strikeout.
Muilenburg limited Clarkston to two hits and struck out nine in a dominating performance.
“Softball is such a mental game,” Muilenburg said. “Mentally I just have to say I’m better than you and then follow up on it. Mentally, emotionally, and physically this is draining, but this is the state finals and this is what we signed up for.”
Saturday’s appearance will be Grandville’s first in the state finals in 35 years.
“A reporter asked me up at Central Michigan (during quarterfinals) about this and he wondered how old I was,” Grandville coach Troy Ungrey said. “I said I was a sophomore in high school (in 1982). That said, we’ve gotten a couple e-mails from members of that 1982 team telling us to go for it and bring that title home.”
As for Tolmie and the rest of her returning teammates, they were already looking to next year.
“I can’t wait,” Tolmie said. “I want to work during the travel season and make us better right now.
“Next year, we’ll be rock solid and ready to go.”
Grandville 2, Clarkston 1
Macomb Dakota 6, Mattawan 3
Final: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Richmond 4, Escanaba 2
Ida 3, Stevensville Lakeshore 2
Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Monroe St. Mary C.C. vs. Shepherd, 3 p.m.
Gladstone vs. Napoleon, 5:30 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Kalamazoo Christian vs. Indian River Inland Lakes, 10 a.m.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford vs. Coleman, 12:30 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 3 p.m.