Swantek delivers as Richmond returns to state final

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Evelyn Swantek couldn’t help but feel a little motivated.

Check that. A lot motivated.

Escanaba walked the batter in front of her to load the bases, only to see Swantek deliver a bases-clearing, three-run double in the third inning, leading Richmond to a 4-2 victory Thursday in the Division 2 state semifinals.

“I knew once they intentionally walked (left fielder Emma Caperton), I knew it was my time to do this for my team,” Swantek said. “It was my thing to do for my team. I heard everybody in the dugout cheering, and I felt this is the time.”

With the victory, the defending champion Blue Devils (36-7) advance to Saturday’s state championship game against either Ida or Stevensville Lakeshore.

The pressure of repeating doesn’t bother the Blue Devils.

“We’ve done amazing with pressure throughout the whole tournament,” Swantek said. “I know we can do it, no matter what. Team chemistry is huge for us.

“I know we can do it again.”

Swantek’s hit was a relief for Richmond coach Howard Stuart, who hasn’t been seeing those type of important hits often enough lately.

“We haven’t been hitting,” said Stuart, noting the Blue Devils have had to scrape out three consecutive extra-inning games to get to East Lansing. “We’ve had three straight overtime (extra innings) games, winning games by one run.

“We need some more hitting. We’re getting people on, but we’re not getting a key hit.”

The veteran Stuart, in his 39th season at Richmond with 990 career victories, feels his team was sharper offensively early in the season.

“As the season goes on we’re spending more time outside,” Stuart said. “The first part of the season we had eight stations of hitting inside the gym and we get a lot of swings in — but we haven’t been inside the gym in a long time.”

Richmond sophomore pitcher Erin Shuboy — who pitched a no-hitter in last year’s state championship game — allowed four hits and two earned runs in seven innings, striking out seven and walking six.

Escanaba (37-5) got RBIs in the fifth from Emily Bruntjens and Lex Chaillier.

Division 1

Thursday’s semifinals

Grandville 2, Clarkston 1

Macomb Dakota 6, Mattawan 3

Final: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Division 2

Thursday’s semifinals

Richmond 4, Escanaba 2

Ida 3, Stevensville Lakeshore 2

Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.

Division 3

Friday’s semifinals

Monroe St. Mary C.C. vs. Shepherd, 3 p.m.

Gladstone vs. Napoleon, 5:30 p.m.

Final: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

Division 4

Friday’s semifinals

Kalamazoo Christian vs. Indian River Inland Lakes, 10 a.m.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford vs. Coleman, 12:30 p.m.

Final: Saturday, 3 p.m.