Lakeshore’s softball team is back in the Division 2 state semifinals for the second time in three years.
Standing between the Lancers and their eighth state title are a pair of elite pitchers.
Lakeshore (32-10) will take on Eaton Rapids (39-3) at 10 a.m. today at Michigan State University. Defending state champion Escanaba (32-3) will play North Branch (29-9) in the other semifinal at 12:30 p.m. The winners will play Saturday at 10 a.m. for the championship.
“We got there,” Lakeshore coach Denny Dock said after the Lancers’ 3-1 win over Spring Lake in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. “The only way you get here is with some cheers and tears. We’ve had a little bit of everything. I’m super proud of the kids.”
Eaton Rapids is led by pitcher Grace Lehto, who is 30-1 with a 0.34 earned-run average and 342 strikeouts in 163 innings pitched.
“They’ve got a stud pitcher,” Dock said. “She’s tougher than blazes. We’re going to have to be at our best, but I still say you have to win on defense. You’ve got to match the zeroes.
“We’ll see what we can find about them, see if we can come up with a plan.”
The Greyhounds have eight players batting over .400. Center fielder Peyton Benjamin leads the way with a .496 average.
Escanaba is favored to return to the finals. Pitcher Gabi Salo, who has committed to play at Wisconsin, has a 23-2 record, 0.17 ERA, and 321 strikeouts in 162 2/3 innings.
Lakeshore has had a strong offense this season, with junior Laney Mead leading the way. Mead is batting .426 with 16 home runs and 68 runs batted in.
Sierra Ciesielski has a team-high .479 batting average and eight home runs. Isabella Najera hits .456 and Meghan Younger bats .406.
Freshman Gianna Kerschbaum is second on the Lancers with nine home runs, and has also emerged as their top pitching option in the state tournament. She went six innings with 11 strikeouts in the quarterfinal victory.
Lakeshore has had five pitchers log at least 29 innings this season, with Najera and Mead getting the most work.
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders