By Greg Gielczyk
KINGSLEY — The Hart Pirates took an early lead in Saturday’s Division 3 regional title game before dropping a 9-3 decision to Evart.
Earlier in the day, the Pirates cruised to an 11-0 victory over a Pine River team that had beaten them just two weeks ago.
It was the farthest any Pirates softball team has advanced in the tournament.
Senior righthander Gabriella Quijas spun a masterful no-hitter against the Bucks, while the Pirates collected nine hits in a steady rain in the noon semifinal.
Quijas only had a couple strikeouts, but the defense made the plays.
“She’s a contact pitcher. She doesn’t throw super hard,” said Hart coach Dean DeVries. “Her most strikeouts in a game … I think the first game of the year she had eight. After that it’s been three or four a game.
“If our defense is on, we play really well behind her. Teams swing early in counts and she throws strikes. If we’re playing solid defense, we can do that to a team.”
Four girls had multiple-hit games for the Pirates as Mackenna Carrier, Caydence Bateson, Kelsey Copenhaver and Quijas collected two apiece.
Fittingly it was Quijas leading with three RBI, while catcher Abby Hicks knocked in two and Carrier and Gabryella Schmieding one apiece.
Hart led 1-0 after the top of the first, but the Wildcats answered with four in the bottom half and led the rest of the way.
“We battled there at the end. We were putting runs up,” DeVries said. “There’s no quit in this team. That’s how they played all season.
“As a coach, I can’t be anything but proud.”
The Pirates came into the game with a three-game winning streak and finished the season 27-14.