By Adam Knorr
EAST LANSING – Skyler Sobeski was simply too much for the Montague softball team to handle.
Sobeski pitched seven scoreless innings and drove in two runs as Bronson (37-7) topped Montague 5-0 in the Division 3 state semifinals to end the Wildcats’ Cinderella postseason run.
But it was still a great run for Montague, which won five straight tournament games, won a district title, and captured its first regional championship in program history.
The Wildcats finished with a 23-13 record.
“Early on we had some losses in conference that kind of took us out of the conference race so our immediate focus went towards districts and regionals,” said Montague head coach Doug Rice. “You never know if you’re going to get this far but you have to start somewhere.”
“We had a rocky start but towards the middle of the season we finally put it all together and this game we put it all on the line,” said Montague senior Madison Alvarez. “It’s going to happen. At the end of the day all of us are very happy with what we did.”
Trouble started for the Wildcats in the first inning, when Bronson’s Kelsey Robinson led off with a walk. After a successful sacrifice bunt moved Robinson to second, Sobeski hit a shot to Montague shortstop Alyssa Bobian.
Bobian threw Sobeski out at first and the Wildcats tried to gun down Robinson as she advanced to third on the play. The throw sailed wide and Robinson scored on the play.
That turned out to be all the offense the Vikings needed, thanks to the efforts of their pitcher.
Sobeski struck out 12 batters and walked one in her complete game shutout.
The Wildcats mustered just two hits and never managed to advance a runner past second base.
Montague was able to get better swings on Sobeski toward the end of the contest, but a stout Bronson defense made every play when called upon. Sobeski limited the Wildcats to just three total base runners.
“I knew as you went along in the tournament you were going to run into the best pitcher you’ve seen yet and today that’s what happened,” Rice said. “She’s awful good.”
Bronson broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth. After a leadoff single from Payton Robinson, the Wildcats committed another error on a sacrifice bunt that left runners on first and second.
The next batter – Kailtyn Czajkowski – reached on a bunt due to fielder indifference, and Kelsey Robinson followed up with a two RBI single.
Two batters later, Sobeski laced a single into left field to score two more as the Vikings took a 5-0 lead.
Montague’s defense, a problem point early in the season, had been clicking throughout its playoff run. Against Bronson, the Wildcats committed two errors, each of which led to Viking runs.
Regardless, Bronson’s timely hitting proved to be the key to victory.
“I wouldn’t exactly say that our defense was really the culprit,” Rice said. “It was their good hitting and pitching that was the difference. I’m still proud of my defense. We still made plays. They hit the ball and sometimes the good teams do that.”
Senior Kenadee Shugars pitched all six innings for the Wildcats, surrendering five hits and three walks while striking out 10. Only three of Bronson’s five runs were earned.
“We had a few errors there and I don’t think we played as hard as we did in the quarterfinals and that kind of affected us,” Shugars said. “It was fun coming here but I feel like in districts we really came to fight and up until this point we just played harder and harder.”
Montague bids goodbye to six seniors – most notably Shugars, Alvarez and Linze Neubauer. The Wildcats will return seven of the starters from the semifinal game next season.
That is left fielder Emma Rupert