Pitcher Rachel Everett talks about representing the Hartland community. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
East Lansing – Things weren't going her way Thursday, but Hartland pitcher Rachel Everett wasn’t rattled.
Everett, only a freshman, was pitching in the Division 1 semifinals at Michigan State and Howell scored two runs in the first inning and was threatening for more.
But Everett got two hitters out to end the threat, settled down, and eventually, the game turned for Everett and the Eagles.
Hartland scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, added two more big runs in the sixth -- the first-inning trouble seemed miles away -- and defeated Howell 6-4.
“I was just excited to get the game started,” said Everett, who allowed nine hits (four in the first inning), and one walk, while striking out five. “I was excited to play with my team. We’ve made it so far and we’re not done yet.
“I knew we have great offense, and a great defense behind me, and we could get out of that jam.”
Brooke Cowan had three hits for Hartland (33-5), including a two-run single in the fourth-inning uprising, as the Eagles made it to the state finals for the first time since 1996.
“I can’t even explain the fun we’re having, and the energy,” Cowan said. “Even the bus ride here, we were going crazy, listening to our favorite songs.”
Hartland put pressure on Howell’s defense in the fourth inning, playing “small ball,” and the strategy worked.
“We shook things up a little bit,” Eagles coach Bob Greene said. “Sometimes you have to do that to manufacture some runs, and make the defense make plays.
“We’ve been blessed so far. Things have been falling our way. We have a great group of kids who are really riding the wave right now.”
Hartland coach Bob Greene talks about how difficult it is to win in the state tournament. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Howell (29-11) got off to a quick start against Everett but couldn’t get much more offense going, and allowed the big fourth inning.
“The way we’ve been playing, I didn’t think we’d give up four runs in an inning,” coach Ron Pezzoni said. “Hartland did some good things, there were a couple of balls that took some bounces, and we lost a little focus maybe for a hitter or two, and it snowballed.
“We’ve been able to get out of that in the past, but all those things kind of happened at once.”
Catcher Brooke Cowan and Hartland advanced to Saturday's Division 1 championship game. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
All semifinals and finals at MSU
Caledonia 1, Warren Regina 0
Hartland 6, Howell 4
Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.
South Haven 14, Dearborn Divine Child 0
Escanaba 2, Eaton Rapids 0
Final: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Sanford Meridian vs. Millington, 10 a.m.
Clinton vs. Coloma, 12:30 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Rogers City vs. Coleman, 3 p.m.
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Centreville, 5:30 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.