The Wayland softball team had to come from behind with a thrilling six-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull out a 9-6 victory over Otsego and capture its first district title since 2018.
The Lady Wildcats uncharacteristically fell behind 6-3 before their bats came alive, featuring huge offensive fireworks, such as a triple by sophomore Kami Morse and a double by Kennedy Cole. Grace Kincaid brought in the go-ahead run with a suicide squeeze bunt.
Junior hurler Emma Ludema turned in a gutty performance, surviving some scary moments, including stranding runners on first and second in the seventh before recording the final out. She walked two batters and struck out seven.
Ludema was able to contain Bulldog slugger Kendra VanderLugt, record-tying home run hitter, limiting her to an RBI single and a couple of deep flyouts. Wayland collected 10 hits in all, as did Otsego.
Emma Tornes collected four singles for the Wildcats and Cole and Morse both had two hits.
The ‘Cats jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first inning, taking advantage of Otsego fielding mistakes, but the visiting group roared back with five runs in the fourth to stake out a 6-3 lead.
In the district opener, the Waildcats defeated Plainwell 15-0, as Kayla Reed increased her record to 11-0, striking out six batters and allowing two hits, in three innings.
Leading the offensive attack were Emma Tornes, Grace Kincaid, and Kami Morse, who each had two hits. Tornes had a triple and Morse connected for a double. Kennedy Cole, Kaelyn Sikkema, Emma Ludema, Kayla Reed, and Jada Mohon, all had hits. Cole and Reed hit triples and Ludema had a double
Wayland, only an honorable mention pick in the coaches’ Division 2 state rankings, now owns an overall record of 31-3, coming on the heels of a district semifinal win over Plainwell and doubleheader sweeps of O-K Green Conference champion Zeeland West and No. 2-ranked Muskegon Oakridge.
The Lady Wildcats, two years ago suffering a rare losing season, have rebounded to capture the O-K Gold Conference title and now a district championship. They are scheduled to play Coldwater at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 12, in the opening round of the regional tournament. Niles and Stevensville Lakeshore will play in the other regional semifinal at noon. The finals will get under way at 2 p.m.
Otsego finished its most successful campaign ever with a 35-4 overall record and was ranked No. 9 in the state Division 2 coaches’ poll.