Hudsonville players celebrate with the championship trophy after their 10-inning, 2-1 win over Mattawan in the Div. 1 softball final in Battle Creek on June 16, 2012. / Julian H. Gonzalez / DFP
BATTLE CREEK (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - After battling to a stalemate through 9 1/2 innings, Hudsonville scored an unearned run in the bottom of the 10th to win Division 1 title, 2-1 over defending champ Mattawan.
With two runners on and no one out, Bri Elliott laid down a bunt in front of the plate, but the throw to first caromed off her hand, enabling Danielle Freeman to score the game-winner.
"That was the best thing I ever felt in my life," Elliott said. "I didn't really believe it and then I just saw (the ball) roll in the sand. I turned around and Danielle Freeman was at home, and it was an incredible feeling."
The outcome of the play caught Elliott by surprise.
"I wasn't thinking game-winner at all," she said. "I was just thinking get it down, get them to advance."
"We've struggled a little bit with the bunt this year, but we got the win with the bunt," Coach Tom Vruggink added. "It's a sad way to see it end, but I don't think in a game like this that either team was a loser. It was a great ballgame."
Mattawan (32-11) struck first without the benefit of a hit. As Kyla Nickrent bunted the first pitch in front of the plate, and the resulting throw from the catcher went wild, and Nickrent continued to third base. She came home on a passed ball.
Hudsonville (39-3) tied it in the bottom of the second. Lexi Agers led off with a single and was retired at second on a fielders' choice. Josie Hamming reached first on the play, stole second and scored on Brooke Agers' single just outside the reach of the second baseman, beating the throw home by sliding under the tag.
Both teams had prior opportunities to win, coming up empty after loading the bases.
Hudsonville's chance came with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth. Carly Wisniewski walked, and Lexi Agers and Jackie Plowman singled. But Stacy Thompson stuck out a hitter, the Wildcats turned a force play at home plate, and shortstop Allie Havers threw the next batter out at first.
The Wildcats had similar opportunity in the top of the fifth, after bunt singles by Kyla Nickrent and Sarah Johnson and an infield hit by Abby Stoner. But Lexi Agers got the next two batters - the fourth and fifth hitters -- to pop up, ending the threat.
"We just couldn't get that key hit today. That's basically what it came down to," Mattawan coach Alicia Smith said. "The pitching on both sides was outstanding, the defense was outstanding, somebody's got to lose, unfortunately, but I was very, very, very, proud of them. These kids just played their hearts out and that's all I can ever ask of them."
BY WRIGHT WILSON - DETROIT FREE PRESS