Commercial-News, Penny Saver, & Sturgis Sentinel Sports

Mendon softball rallies to win regional championship over Burr Oak

Mendon’s Kaidee Gonser (left) and Mattea Bingaman (right) celebrate after scoring on a two-run single in the top of the sixth inning of Saturday’s MHSAA Division 4 regional final against Burr Oak, which tied the game at 3-3 after being down 3-0 going into the inning. Mendon would go on to win the regional championship 7-6. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

MENDON — Sometimes, when it drizzles, it pours.

In Saturday’s MHSAA Division 4 softball regional final game between Mendon and Burr Oak in Mendon that had brief periods late of off-and-on rain, the metaphor was even more apt. Although the rain never got super-heavy, the same could not be said for Mendon’s late-inning offense in a 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Bobcats to win the regional title and punch their tickets to the state quarterfinals.

And sometimes, all it takes is one key mistake by the opposition to open the theoretical floodgates.

After being held to just two hits and five total baserunners by Burr Oak pitcher Brooklyn Root through five innings, and after the Bobcats shocked the host team by scoring three runs off of Rowan Allen in the bottom of the fifth inning to go up 3-0, the Division 4 third-ranked Hornets were in an unfamiliar spot this season: their backs against the wall, with all momentum going to the team in blue.

And then Allen hit a high pop-up to second base to lead off the top of the sixth inning that Burr Oak’s second baseman Amy Ledyard could not corral, advancing to second on the error.

That drop eventually cascaded, as Kaidee Gonser walked and Mattea Bingaman reached on another dropped ball by the right fielder, bringing Allen in to score to make it 3-1, and then it all started to click for Mendon against a pitcher that had befuddled them all game.

Mendon’s Brielle Bailey hits a two-run single in the sixth inning of Saturday’s softball regional final against Burr Oak. The hit tied the game at 3-3. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

After a wild pitch moved runners to second and third, Brielle Bailey laced a single to right field to bring home both baserunners and tie the game at 3-3. After another walk and a strikeout, Abby Butler popped up a bunt attempt that was caught by Burr Oak third baseman Makaila Whittington for the second out of the inning, but a throw to first base to try to catch the first base runner off base was thrown away, allowing yet another run to score, giving Mendon a 4-3 lead by the end of the inning.

“We just stayed on [Root]. We stopped swinging at that high fastball, the rise ball, we got her a little bit rattled. Sometimes it just takes a little bit to get these guys kickstarted,” Mendon head coach Steve Butler said. “The biggest play in the game was the pop-up at second that got dropped, then they threw it away, and that was a huge momentum-builder right there.”

After Allen threw just five pitches to get all three outs in the bottom half of the sixth, Mendon was able to get three more runs in the top of the seventh to solidify their lead, including a sacrifice fly by Bailey and then a two-run inside-the-park home run by Ally Butler on a sharply-hit ball that went under the glove of the right fielder to go up 7-3 entering the bottom of the seventh.

Those three runs would prove to be key in the final frame. After Burr Oak’s Whittington grounded out to Allen to start the inning, Linda Ultz walked on four straight pitches and Saryia Cornejo got a base hit to center field. A strikeout following that brought Burr Oak down to their final out, bringing it back to the top of the order for catcher Braylyn Hernandez. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Hernandez cranked a deep fly ball to left center that just got over the fence for a three-run home run to put the Bobcats back within one run, 7-6.

However, the Bobcats’ rally would fizzle out, as Ledyard struck out on four pitches to end the game and cue the celebration for Mendon, who will return to the state quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Butler said his team’s resiliency was one of the keys to Mendon coming back for the victory.

“I think with this group, it’s just there’s no quit in them. They don’t ever get rattled,” Butler said. “With what we went through last year, with the comeback in the regional finals against River Valley and the comeback in the quarters against Fowler, it doesn’t faze them. Being down doesn’t faze them.”

Burr Oak, who edged out Decatur 2-1 in the semifinals earlier in the day, was able to shut down Mendon for quite a bit in the early goings, in what was a pitcher’s duel between Root and Allen for most of the game. Root had 10 strikeouts through the first five innings and 11 in total, while Allen got five through the first four innings and eight in total in the game.

Burr Oak’s Lilly Holtom (6) crosses the plate as her teammates in the dugout celebrate scoring the Bobcats’ first run of the Division 4 regional softball final against Mendon Saturday. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

In the bottom of the fifth, to score their three runs to take the lead, Burr Oak started the inning off with Lilly Holtom getting hit by a pitch. That followed with a soft fly ball to shallow right field by Whittington that got down for a base hit, and then after a wild pitch sent runners to second and third with no outs, Payten Davis-Hudson got an RBI single to right field to give Burr Oak the lead. After Davis-Hudson stole second, Cornejo hit a ground ball to second, with Mendon second baseman Brooke Gerth wanting to throw home at first, but then tried to toss to first base to get the out there and the throw was dropped. With the score now 2-0, Elaine Holtom struck out and then Hernandez got an RBI groundout to second to bring in the third run.

Butler gave credit to Burr Oak, who the Hornets beat twice earlier in this season by wide margins, for keeping Mendon on the wrong foot for the first five innings.

“You’ve got to give credit to the Bobcats, they’ve got a good pitcher, a good solid catcher, and when you play teams like that, it’s hard to beat them three times. They won 20, 25 games this year; they’re no slouches. In my opinion they beat a really good Decatur team,” Butler said. “[Root] had us shut down for five innings. They’re nothing to laugh at, they’re a good ball team.”

Mendon defeated Martin in the semifinals earlier in the day by a score of 12-2 in five innings.

With the win over Burr Oak, the Hornets take on Dansville on Tuesday in the state quarterfinals hosted at Jackson College in Jackson. Game time is at 2 p.m. Dansville defeated Reading 9-0 in their regional final to make it to the quarterfinals.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or

Mendon’s players celebrate with the regional championship trophy Saturday following their 7-6 victory over Burr Oak in the regional finals. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

Leave a Reply