Brandywine finally beats Kalamazoo Christian to win Division 3 Regional title
By By ROB BABLER / Niles Daily Star
CONSTANTINE -- A week ago, junior pitcher Nicki McGowen fought through the cold temperatures and the numbing wind to lead her team to a district title.
The weather warmed for the regionals in Constantine Saturday, and Brandywine's star pitcher stayed hot as the Bobcats beat Hartford 1-0 in the first game it played, and then beat defending state champion Kalamazoo Christian 5-0 for the regional championship.
McGowen was nearly unhittable. She gave up no runs and only two hits the entire day. She recorded 20 strikeouts and only four walks. Nine of the 15 innings she pitched she faced the minimum three batters.
Games such as baseball and softball are beloved for many reasons. One reason is that time is not an element that factors into the game. A game can go on and on and in an instant, boom! the game is over. Such was the case in Brandywine's 1-0 victory over Hartford in the Bobcats' first game in regional competition Saturday.
McGowen had been dominant the whole game, giving up just one hit over the first seven innings. In the first two innings, not a single Indian ball made it out of the infield.
Trouble was, Brandywine couldn't generate any offense, either. While senior Hartford pitcher Lisa Vawter wasn't as dominant in keeping runners off base – she conceded seven hits – she and her team were just as dominant in allowing no hits that led to any Brandywine runs through the standard seven innings.
Both teams threatened briefly. The Bobcats had a chance to score in the sixth inning, having runners on first and second with only one out, but came up empty. Hartford's scoring opportunity came in the top of the fourth inning when junior shortstop Brittney Cox hit a triple into center field with only one out. She was stranded, however, when McGowen struck out the next batter, and the following batter dribbled a weak ground out along the first-base line.
A play in the seventh inning might have been an indicator this day would belong to the Bobcats. With two outs, a sharp grounder was hit to shortstop Nakisha Washington. The ball ricocheted off her foot, popping high into the air, landing into the glove of second baseman Lauren Heyn, who threw the runner out at first.
The game went scoreless heading into extra innings. Seemingly to make a statement to all who were questioning whether she was tiring, McGowen struck out the side in the top of the eighth inning, recording her eighth, ninth and tenth strikeouts. She had only two walks against the Indians.
In the bottom of the eighth, Brandywine catcher Michelle Shoemaker stepped up to the plate. Vawter fired her first pitch. Boom! Game over.
Shoemaker hit a 215-foot home run over the left center field fence to give the Bobcats the only run it needed to propel it into the finals against Kalamazoo Christian.
In last year's regional semifinal, the Comets scored two runs early, and the game was over. This year was similar, but this time the Bobcats got the jump on Kalamazoo Christian.
In the first inning, Kelli Zache reached first on an error. A single by Washington put runners on first and second. Once again, Shoemaker provided the necessary offense, slapping a double into right field to bring in the runners.
As good as McGowen had been pitching, however, Myers still wasn't comfortable.
Although the two runs did prove sufficient, the Bobcats got three insurance runs in the second inning, mostly off Comet miscues (one walk, two errors, two wild pitches, and a Heyn double).
Not a single Kalamazoo Christian baserunner reached second base. This win was particularly satisfying for Brandywine. Myers said it was his team's first win against the Comets.
Kalamazoo Christian's coach Marty DeJong was impressed with Brandywine's effort.
The Bobcats will play Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Divisin 3 quarterfinals at Greenville High School against Lansing Catholic Central, which won the regional tournament Saturday at Grand Rapids West Catholic High School.
K. Christian 000 000 0--0 1 4
Brandywine 230 000 x--5 4 2
Nicki McGowen (W, 33-4) and Michelle Shoemaker; Danielle Roskamp (L), Leah Van Enk (1), Jessica VanderRoest (2) and Nicole Isenbaard.
2B: Lauren Heyn (B), Shoemaker (B)
Team records: Brandywine 33-5, Kalamazoo Christian 29-12
Hartford 000 000 00--0 1 1
Brandywine 000 000 01--1 7 0
Nicki McGowen (W, 32-4) and Michelle Shoemaker; Lisa Vawter (L) and Amanda Smith.
HR: Shoemaker (B)
3B: Brittney Cox (H)
Team records: Brandywine 34-5, Hartford 26-8