LESLIE – The Lansing Catholic softball team displayed both resiliency and dominance during its district tournament run on Monday.
After a fourth-inning rally led to a 7-3 victory over Olivet in the semifinals, the Cougars turned around and defeated Leslie, 8-1, to claim their first Division 3 district crown since 2013.
“We knew these were two tough teams and we would have to stay really tough throughout the games,” said Lansing Catholic senior Eliese Hornberger, who went 2 for 4 with a double and a triple in the final at Leslie High School. “We had to not lose focus and play hard until the very end. We did that today.”
The Cougars (25-12) jumped on the board in the bottom of the second inning when Alexa Hecksel’s two-run double scored Mary Maher and Paige Pline. On the following at-bat, Maria Perry’s groundout scored Rebecka Poljan — who hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the semifinal.
“That’s usually what happens: someone gets a huge hit, like (when) Rebecka hit a home run, and gets the team going,” Hornberger said.
Lansing Catholic’s Clair Phifer added to her team’s lead in the bottom of third when her single scored Hornberger from third base.
Facing a four-run deficit in the top of the fourth, the Blackhawks brought home their only run after Autumn Martin’s single scored Megan Reeser.
Cougar pitcher Brianna Babcock hadn’t given up a hit until the fourth, and after Leslie scored its lone run the senior only allowed one more hit in the ball game.
“I know that I have good defense behind me,” said Babcock, whose team scored four more runs in the final three innings. “That makes me feel better.”
Despite the loss, the Blackhawks’ season ended on a high note. Leslie finished the year with a 16-17 record, which is the team’s best finish in recent memory. Also, the Blackhawks grabbed their first ever district win by defeating Maple Valley, 10-1, in the semifinals earlier on Monday.
Leslie coach Larry Campbell feels his team, which has several sophomores, is heading in the right direction.
“They’re finally getting a winning attitude,” Campbell said. “At the beginning of the year, we just wanted to improve — which everybody does. And as the year went by, we improved and started winning games…
“Next year we’ll take another step.”
Lansing Catholic will face the winner of Saranac-Laingsburg on Saturday at home in the regional tournament.