East Lansing — Marisa Muglia pitched a two-hit shutout and started a four-run seventh-inning with a lead-off single to lead Warren Regina to a 4-0 victory over Bay City Western Thursday night in a Division 1 semifinal game at Secchia Stadium.
Regina (29-11) will face the Howell-Clarkston semifinal winner in the championship game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday with legendary coach Diane Laffey trying to push her title game record to a perfect 7-0, having last guided Regina to the championship in 2015.
Muglia, a senior right-hander, had to work out of trouble in the bottom of the fifth when she hit consecutive batters before getting Katie Bickham to pop up to the pitcher before striking out leadoff hitter Karlie David to end the threat.
Bay City Western junior Adaline Ziehmer matched Muglia pitch-for-pitch until running into trouble in the seventh.
First, Muglia lined a single to center, then Laffey pinch-ran for Muglia, putting freshman Jenna Holt into the game.
Holt made the rest of her time on the basepaths an adventure of a lifetime, taking second on a sacrifice bunt by Mia Konyvka, then continuing on to third when the throw came behind her at second … and scoring when the throw from second glanced off of her out of play into the dugout.
“She does what I can’t do pretty much, she can run really fast around the bases,” Muglia said. “I knew I had to get on base to get us going, and then she caused chaos and they fell right into her hands.”
Said Holt: “To be honest I’ve done that many times before (overrun second base). I just knew that with my speed that I can cause chaos. All I remember is sliding into third and hearing the ball is dead and then I was awarded home. It (ball) kind of hit me as I slid. That’s huge for me.”
Regina added three runs when Abby Hornberger walked, took second on a ground out and third on a wild pitch. Then, Adriana James walked, stole second and they both scored on an opposite field slap hit to left by Miranda Nicholas, the No. 9 hitter who fell behind 1-2 in the count.
“She’s been struggling at the plate and I seriously (was thinking of pinch-hitting for her), in fact I asked the umpire after the inning if there was any rule that says a courtesy runner can’t pinch hit in the same inning because I seriously thought of putting Jenna (Holt) in, but didn’t know if I could,” said Laffey — now in her 49th season as Regina head coach, and who became the first coach in state history to win 1,200 games this season. “I just told her (Nicholas) I believe in you, but you have to believe in yourself.”
Obviously, Nicholas did believe in herself, slapping the ball over the third baseman’s head to score Hornberger and James for the 3-0 cushion.
“I just knew I need to do something for the team and get some extra runs for us,” Nicholas said. “At that point I knew she (Ziehmer) wasn’t going to throw it high on me so I looked for the outside pitch and knew I had to drive it. It was so relieving because I was 0-for-2 and to just get a hit like that was really good.”
Ziehmer carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh before allowing the four runs, three hits and two walks as leadoff hitter Jacqueline Jozefczyk’s RBI single scored Nicholas.
Muglia talked of her shutout. She retired the last eight batters she faced.
“Yes, it was the best game I’ve pitched, my rise ball and curveball were working well,” Muglia said, then talked of getting out of the fifth-inning jam. “They were kind of crowding the plate, the same pitch for both batters who got hit, and then I knew I just had to calm down and refocus and get those next two outs because those runners couldn’t score.”
All games at Secchia Stadium, Michigan State, East Lansing
Warren Regina 4, Bay City Western 0
Howell 9, Clarkston 6
Final: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Escanaba 2, North Branch 1
Stevensville Lakeshore 8, Eaton Rapids 1
Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Schoolcraft vs. Dundee, 3 p.m.
Millington vs. Standish-Sterling, 5:30 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Rogers City, 12:30 p.m.
Coleman vs. Kalamazoo Christian, 10 a.m.
Final: Saturday, 3 p.m.