East Lansing — Add one more state championship to the legendary career of Diane Laffey.
The Warren Regina softball coach earned her seventh state championship — she’s never lost in the title game — Saturday, as Regina defeated Howell 3-2 in 8 innings.
Pinch-runner Jenna Holt came home on an infield single by freshman Adriana James, giving Regina, and Laffey, another state championship.
“A lot of times it’s hard to come back here two years in a row, it really is,” said Laffey, noting Regina lost in the semifinals last year. “(Saturday’s was) one of the more exciting. The first one (championship) was in 17 innings. I’d much rather have eight (innings) than 17.”
With only five seniors on this team, Laffey — in her staggering 49th season at Regina — felt this particular championship was special because of the relative inexperience, but also the closeness of this team.
“We have so many young kids on this team, a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Laffey said. “This is big. The fact they could come to this big stage and take care of things, it’s huge.
“They get along so well, too. They battle back all the time, they’re so resilient.”
Regina coach Diane Laffey talks about winning her seventh state championship Saturday. The Detroit News
Pitcher Marisa Muglia opened the winning rally with a single, and was replaced by Holt. Mia Konyvka bunted, and was thrown out, but Holt ran all the way to third base, seeing the base was not covered.
“When I rounded second and looked over, the base was empty,” Holt said.
Said Laffey: “There was nobody covering and she saw it. She was on that play. I’m waving at that point and it was huge that nobody was covering third, positively huge.”
After a pair of intentional walks loaded the bases, James hit a dribbler toward second base that went off a glove and away from any fielder.
Warren Regina's Adriana James talked about her clutch hit in Saturday's championship game. The Detroit News
“I didn’t see it, I didn’t see where it went,” James said. “I just needed to go. But when I saw it bobble off her and come toward first (base), I started crying and thinking ‘this just happened.’”
Regina (30-11) scored two runs in the second inning.
With one out, Kiely Dulapa reached base on a force out, then James and Miranda Nicolas both walked to load the bases.
Jacqueline Jozefczyk lined a two-run single, giving Regina the early lead.
But Howell (36-4) clawed back with A.J. Militello linging an RBI double in the fifth inning, and a Maddie Springer sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Howell left two runners on in the top of eighth inning.
“Give Regina all the credit in the world, they had a ton of stuff go their way and they figured out a way to win,” said Ron Pezzoni, Howell coach. “Every time we got something going, we got pushed back.
“I give all the credit to these (Howell) kids. I’m super proud of them, they battled their butts off and worked as hard as any team.”