ST. JOSEPH — Emma Springer hit a home run in the third inning of Saturday’s Division 4 district softball final at Michigan Lutheran. Madison Vollman and the rest of River Valley’s defense made sure it held up in a 2-0 title victory over Bridgman.
The Mustangs will play Colon in a regional semifinal game at noon Saturday, June 8 at Gobles.
Saturday’s win marks the fifth straight district title for the Mustangs.
“I’m very proud of this group. Nobody gave us a chance this year,” River Valley coach Dan Schasser said. “Everyone said we were done after last year but here we are going strong.”
Springer caught a low changeup thrown by Bees’ ace Natalee McNeil on the outside corner. The hit sent the ball flying deep into left field, clearing the fence to bring in two runs. It was all River Valley (30-9) would need for the win.
Vollman went to work early. She struck out Bridgman’s starting order in quick succession, and in the second inning pitched a foul out and two popups.
Vollman finished her day in the circle with nine strikeouts and zero walks on four hits.
“She threw her tail off,” Schasser said. “She has been working hard all year, one of the hardest working kids (on the team). I’m happy because this is big for her.”
The Bees (26-4) missed out on a big opportunity in the fourth inning. They loaded the bases on singles by Mackenzie Knowlton, Arie Hackett and Madelyn Oman. But like most of the game, Vollman continued to be a tough out and left all three runner stranded on two pop ups and a strikeout.
“I take blame for hits in that inning,” Schasser said. “I called bad pitches and she threw them where I called them. She kept trusting me and threw them where I called and managed to get through it.”
Bridgman started to surge one final time in the seventh on a Hannah Johnson single. McNeil made it to base on a hit as Johnson was forced out at second. But Vollman soon put an end to things, striking out Haylee Kanous and Ava Ward for the final two outs.
“Our bats weren’t there today,” Bridgman coach Elaine Starbuck said. “That was the difference right there, we weren’t hitting.
“But, for being a very young team I’m very proud of them. They had a great season and they did a great job with six freshmen, two sophomores, one junior and three injured players out. I’m very proud of them.”
Both River Valley and Bridgman had runaway victories in their respective semifinal games. The Mustangs defeated Lake Michigan Catholic 13-3, and the Bees shut out New Buffalo 15-0 in three innings.
Despite giving up two runs to River Valley, McNeil had a strong showing across both games. She finished the day with 14 strikeouts (six against the Mustangs and eight versus the Bison), and allowed the six hits in the championship game.
After his team’s game against the Lakers, Schasser said the biggest thing to work on is improving defense.
“The first game we had several errors and allowed some runs we shouldn’t have allowed,” he said. “If we play good defense, we are there with any team in the state.”
River Valley 2, Bridgman 0
River Valley 002 000 0 — 2 6 1
Bridgman 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
WP — Maddison Vollman, LP — Natalee McNeil
Top hitters — River Valley: Emma Springer HR, 2 RBIs; Taylor Volstorf 2 1b. Bridgman: Mackenzie Knowlton 1b; Arie Hackett 1b; Madelyn Oman 1b.
Records — River Valley 30-9, Bridgman 26-4.
Bridgman 15, New Buffalo 0
New Buffalo 000 0 — 0 0 3
Bridgman 0(10)4 1 — 15 9 0
WP — Natalee McNeil, LP — Morgan Motycka
Top hitters — Bridgman: Mackenzie Knowlton 1b, 2 RBIs; Hannah Johnson 2b, RBI; Kaylee Shuler 1b, RBI.
River Valley 13, Lake Michigan Catholic 3
WP — Emma Springer, LP — Jenna Cutter
Complete results unavailable.