Stone’s bat propels Holton softball team to 37th straight win and a berth in Friday’s state semifinals

By Steve Gunn
LocalSportsJournal.com

GRAND RAPIDS – It would be interesting to know Jacki Stone’s batting average.

But Holton’s slugging centerfielder doesn’t want to know what she’s hitting, so we don’t get to know, either.

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As Holton Coach Kirk Younts put it, “I can tell you it’s pretty good.”

Rachel Younts makes the pitch for Holton. Photo/Jason Goorman

Rachel Younts makes the pitch for Holton. Photo/Jason Goorman

Stone proved her value at the plate again on Tuesday in the Division 4 state softball quarterfinals at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

She knocked in three big runs, including two with a triple in the key third inning, to propel Holton to a 4-2 victory over Coleman and a berth in Friday’s state semifinals.

The Red Devils, now 37-0 on the season, will play Unionville-Sebewaing at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s state championship game. It will be a rematch of the 2013 semifinals, which Holton lost by a run.

After an amazing undefeated season, the state championship is what Stone and her senior teammates are completely focused on.

“I feel on top of the world,” Stone said after the victory. “That was a tough game. They didn’t make many mistakes. We made a few but we pulled through.

Holton's No. 11 Ashley Friend takes a swing during the fourth inning of action. Photo/Jason Goorman

Holton’s No. 11 Ashley Friend takes a swing during the fourth inning of action. Photo/Jason Goorman

“This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It’s what I’ve been practicing for every day. I think about it day and night. I’m ready.

“This is the seniors’ last chance. We want a state championship and nothing else will do.”

Stone went to work right away on Tuesday, giving Holon a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with an RBI single that scored Katie Wildfong from second base.

That score held up until the third inning, when the Red Devils struck again. Makayla Hutchison led off with a walk, Emily Larabee hit a bunt single, then Wildfong singled to left to load the bases.

That’s when Stone came to the plate.

Holton added a run during her plate appearance on a passed ball, then Stone belted her triple to deep center field to put the Red Devils up 4-0.

“Jacki was on again today,” Younts said. “She’s a clutch player.”

Kayla Cross gets a lead off second base for Holton. Photo/Jason Goorman

Kayla Cross gets a lead off second base for Holton. Photo/Jason Goorman

Holton experienced some defensive problems in the top of the sixth inning, leading to a pair of Coleman runs.

Liz Dana led off the inning with a bunt single, advanced to third on a Holton error, then beat the throw to the plate when a Red Devil infielder tried to gun her down instead of taking the easy out at first.

Laken Berthume followed with an RBI sacrifice fly for the second Coleman run.

The inning could have gotten worse, but Holton pitcher Rachel Younts struck out Chelsea Gordon with runners on third and second to end the threat.

Coleman advanced a runner to third in the seventh, but she could not score.

Rachel Younts pitched the complete game victory, giving up only two hits and one walk while striking out four.

“We made some defensive mistakes at the end,” Kirk Younts said. “I think the big stage pressure got to us a little bit and we were feeling it. We just had to calm down and make some plays.

“I told the girls, the team that’s going to beat Holton is Holton. If we play our best I feel like we’re going to be okay.”

Larabee finished with two hits for Holton while Rachel Younts and Wildfong each had one.

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