By BRYAN EVERSON
Eisenhower’s offense soared in Saturday’s regional semifinal, but came up just shy of sending the team to the state quarterfinals later in the day.
Clarkston ended the Eagles’ season with a 4-3 loss in a Division 1 regional final despite a valiant mid-game comeback effort.
The host Wolves (25-9) got on the board first thanks to an inside-the-park home run from freshman Abbey Tommie in the top of the third, and added three more runs in the fourth, including a solo shot to center field by starting pitcher Olivia Warrington.
Ike, though, quickly provided an answer with its own bats. Aspen Starr drove a pitch with one out over the center field wall with the bases empty in the bottom of the inning to kick-start the rally.
Able to prevent any additional damage from Clarkston thanks to a pickoff for the third out in the top of the fifth, Eisenhower added its other two runs in the bottom of the frame. With two runners on and two outs, Madylen Zweng delivered a single to shallow left field that scored pinch runner Marlissa Ruggirello. Marissa Cilluffo provided the final run for the Eagles on a hard single that got past Clarkston’s shortstop, driving in Brooklyn Schwentek from third base.
Warrington was able to hold the Eagles hitless in her final two innings of work, but Eisenhower’s pitching also stood the test. Kiersten Korber, who got the start, tossed 6 1-3 innings and struck out six batters. In her relief, Cilluffo came in and got the final two outs in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded.
“I think our pitchers pitched great,” Eisenhower coach Bob Hall said. “They’re a tough hitting team and we knew that going in. [Korber and Cilluffo] hit their spots and got some of the best players I know out, so it wasn’t a matter of pitching. We started out a little slow and picked up momentum halfway through the game, and made a game of it. I’m proud of our girls.”
The Eagles came into their second game of the day riding high after an 18-0 victory over Troy Athens in the semifinal.
Korber was a multi-tool marvel in the day’s opener, which went just five innings due to the mercy rule. She allowed just six runners and struck out three in a scoreless effort, and provided plenty of offense for herself, going 4-for- 4 with two RBIs.
An eight-run second inning was where Ike racked up most of its 18 hits, but the Eagles tacked on nearly a handful more the next several innings before adding another six runs in the fifth with a place in the final all but already secured.
Both Cilluffo and Zweng each had three hits against the Red Hawks, while Sarah Wojcik and Samantha Scott were responsible for three RBIs apiece.
Hall looked back on 2017 as a banner season for the school, saying he believes its the first year in program history for a district title.
“Our girls peaked at the right time,” Hall said. They were playing great ball the last three or four weeks of the season. I’m elated. They did great, I’m proud of them.”
While Eisenhower will graduate three seniors, including Sarah Wojcik, who Hall calls “the best outfielder in the state,” along with Zweng and Olivia Gulyas, that means Hall will have plenty of returners back for next year.
“We’ve got a lot coming back and some good talent in the pipeline coming up, so we’re excited about next year, and hopefully we’ll be back with a different outcome.”
While the Eagles finish the year 25- 14, Dakota won its own regional, combining to outscore Warren Cousino and Anchor Bay 23-1 in games also played Saturday.
The Cougars (35-2) also scored a 6- 5 victory over Garden City on Tuesday in the quarterfinals, rallying from a three-run deficit to post five runs in the top of the seventh. They’ll meet Mattawan in a Division 1 semifinal Thursday afternoon, and would play the winner of Clarkston-Grandville in the title game Saturday with a win.