The Grand Haven softball team is off to a roaring start, clipping Rockford 15-4 in five innings Thursday afternoon to improve to 11-0 on the season.
With a quality roster going 15 deep, the Bucs blasted past the Rams with a seven-run third inning, using their cohesive power to overcome a surrendered grand slam in the second inning for the mercy victory.
“This was the first really big test for us,” said Grand Haven head coach John Hall. “We’ve been challenged by Reeths-Puffer and Mona Shores early. Tests like that mean grand slams are no big deal. We had one pitch hang over the plate and it changed the game, but the girls picked each other up, the defense had their pitcher’s back, and we didn’t give up another run.”
Madison Shumaker got the win in the pitching circle, giving up four runs on six hits over five innings with three strikeouts and zero walks.
Kaelyn Stafford led the offense with four hits in four plate appearances, scoring three runs and racking up four RBIs. Baby Hang and Ashlyn Hall each added three hits, with Hang scoring three times and Hall batting in five runs.
Freshmen Regan Riemersma, Emily Walcott and Skyler Covelli added two hits apiece as the back-third of the lineup, proving the Bucs truly run nine deep.
“They hit. They flat out mash it,” Hall said of his team. “Top to bottom, in all different ways, we hit the ball. We have kids hitting bombs and some of the fastest kids I’ve ever seen laying bunts. I wouldn’t want to face this team. No way.
“It is such a beautiful thing when you have a No. 9 hitter who is dangerous. Covelli is so fast. If she sprints into Lake Michigan, I bet she gets 25 yards out before she goes under. Her, Regan and Emily, our freshmen, all went 2-for-4 today in the O-K Red, playing undaunted against Rockford.”
Photo Gallery: Buccaneers battle Rams
A contagious, unbreakable spirit poured from the Grand Haven dugout throughout the game, highlighting the 2019 squad for what it is: an unshakable team.
“The feeling is unbelievable right now,” said senior Baby Hang. “In my four years on varsity, we have never had a team that hits like this and on top of that, we have really great team chemistry. We are all friends off the field and that non-stop energy comes from that friendship. We got 1-9. I know I can trust the entire lineup to bring me home, even the freshmen at the end.”
That spirit was put to the test early. After jumping out to a 6-0 lead, two errors in the field and a rare single off Shumaker loaded the bases. One crack of the bat changed the game, as a Rockford grand slam swung the Rams right back in it.
“I hung it,” Shumaker said. “It just didn’t move like I wanted to.”
Pointing fingers would be easy, but the Bucs don’t play the blame game — they play ball. Grand Haven responded with stifling defense, reassuring their ace they had her back and keeping the Rams out of scoring position for the duration of the contest.
“I just looked to my defense,” Shumaker said. “They picked me right back up and brought the energy back to the field and brought me back to concentrating on those last two outs.”
With confidence unshaken in the field, the Bucs took to the plate and showed Rockford what explosive offense really looks like.
Just for good measure, they started their seven-run inning off with a groundout. No. 8 hitter Riemersma followed it up blazing speed, breaking off a triple with a crack to right field. Walcott brought her fellow freshman home with a single, followed up by a bunt single by Covelli to bring back the top of the order.
With the Rams shaken by the young rally, Baby Hang reached base on a bobbled single, followed up by a 2 RBI double by Hall. Haley Aldred sustained the run with an RBI single, bringing on a pinch runner, immediately stealing second base.
Stafford brought everyone home with one of her two doubles on the day, claiming two RBIs, before advancing to third on a wild pitch, eventually scoring on a second wild pitch to bring the Bucs’ massive third inning to a close with a 13-4 lead.
“It is brutal to face a lineup like ours as an opponent,” Hall said. “When you have nine hitters who can all put it anywhere, it puts real pressure on. I never swing a bat or throw a ball in games, but if we play a lineup like this, I am exhausted after. You have to think of every scenario and prepare for everything, then just hope they hit it where you want it. We usually don’t.”
Down the stretch, Grand Haven plated one run in the fourth and fifth inning to seal the mercy victory. Hall batted in Riemersma with a double in the fourth, while Stafford cracked a solo home run in the fifth to shut the door.
The win improves Grand Haven to 11-0 overall, bordering on a historic start for the program. For coach Hall, all it does is invite more pressure.
“A target. That’s what it feels like,” he said of the start. “You start getting up there and you feel the target on your back. You aren't going to go undefeated in the O-K Red. You just aren’t. But, when you have this kind of momentum, you are never out of a ballgame. You also are never comfortable. One swing of the bat, like today, and you are battling nerves again.
“These girls are doing it right so far. They see one hard hit and all think, ‘Ooh, here it goes’ and pile on. When they get going and cheering all 15 of them from the dugout, it is fun.”
The Bucs return to action Saturday for the Holland Invite, with more conference fun scheduled for Thursday as Hudsonville comes to town.