Tecumseh beats Clinton for state title
By MICKEY ALVARADO
Being only a handful of miles away from one another, Tecumseh and Clinton have a rivalry as great as any other in Lenawee County. It was intensified during the Little League's 10-11 year-old softball championship at Tate Park in Clinton last Wednesday, July 29.
Fans from both towns packed the stands at Tate Park where after a week long tournament, the two rival teams wound up playing in a special game that was decided in the final inning. Tecumseh won the contest 3-2, but both teams were winners with all of Michigan awaiting the final outcome. It was, after all, for the state title.
“They had me worried all year long,” said Tecumseh coach Dave Marko. “All I can say is we had two close plays at the plate that saved us.”
The excitement was felt from start to finish. While the Tecumseh fans did the wave when their team took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning Clinton's fans yelled even louder when knotting the contest and taking the lead when it was their turn to bat.
Tecumseh's Cassandra Brown was by far the fastest base runner for her team. Coach Marko made her his exclusive replacement runner and she scored all of the team's runs. In the first inning, Brown replaced Victoria Martinez who singled and advanced to second base on a passed ball. When trying to catch her off base, Clinton overthrew the ball and Brown was able to jet around third and reach home base safely.
Clinton tied the game only momentarily before taking a 2-1 lead. To start the bottom of the third inning, Jordan Pizzo singled while Clinton pitcher Megan Nelson was walked. Samantha Jones stepped to the plate and blasted a double that scored the two runners and changed the expression on both Tecumseh's players and fans.
The umpires performed the chicken dance and lightened the mood for Tecumseh in the top of the fourth inning and when Claire Burnett was hit by a pitch and her replacement runner, Brown, stole second base, the fans were back on their feet again. Hailey Wright stepped up and laid down a bunt that trickled down the first baseline and Brown was able to tie the game by scooting all the way home again on a wild throw.
The contest remained tied 2-2 until the sixth and final inning. Tecumseh's Morgan Skelton doubled to start the inning and was replaced on the bag by Brown. She was able to steal third base and then score the winning run when Claire Burnett was thrown out at first base on a fielder's choice.
Nelson closed out the rest of the inning with no additional runs allowed and Clinton took to the other side of home plate to try and win the game.
Tecumseh pitcher Abigail Marko struck out the first batter in the bottom of the inning but gave up a hit to Sarah Turner. She stole her way to third base with just one out recorded. A well-hit ball by Caitlyn Winters may have tied the contest but Tecumseh's Whitney Hite leapt up and snagged the ball to record the second out.
Hayley Turk put the ball in play for Clinton and when the pitcher, Marko, bobbled the hit the squeeze was on with Turner heading home to tie the game. She was thrown out instead and Tecumseh's 10-11 had won the title yet again. Tecumseh has won the trophy five years in a row.
“Every girl played a key part in this win,” said coach Marko. “Defense, defense, defense. We faced a fantastic pitcher, Megan Nelson out of Clinton. I'm overjoyed. I can't wait to sleep now!
“My daughter was on the mound and she pitched excellent,” he added.
Abigail Marko pitched all six innings, giving up six hits while walking just one and striking out five.
Clinton's Nelson also went the entire distance in the circle. She allowed seven hits while walking one and striking out two.
Martinez led Tecumseh's offense by going 2-for-2.
“I talk to the girls all year and tell them the most minute little thing can end up being what cost you the game,” said Clinton coach Keith Stapnowski. “It might just be one run, and that's what it ended up being. We had a couple running snafus but the girls played great.”
During pool play Stapnowski said he was satisfied his team belonged in the state games when his girls showed their stuff in their first state run.
“In a couple of plays they ran over there, I said win or lose, what you do out there proves to me you’re learning what we’re teaching. And I’m happy,” Stapnowski said.