Heading into the National Junior College Athletic Association Great Lakes A Regional tournament, the Grand Rapids Community College softball team had heavy momentum in their favor, as they had won seven out of the last eight games while tying for the conference championship with Alpena Community College.
In their first game of the double-elimination tournament, the Raiders faced the 23-21 Mott Community College Bears on Thursday, May 11, in Stevensville. Off the bat, both teams struggled in the first inning as both pitchers had strikeouts while only giving up a combined one hit. However, the Raiders scored two runs in the second inning due to a few walks given up by Mott along with multiple singles by freshman Vanessa Hewitt and redshirt sophomore Annika Roersma to make it a 2-0 lead heading into the third inning. Freshman Izabella Regner continued her dominance on the mound. From the third inning to the sixth inning, she accounted for eight strikeouts and no runs given up. The Raiders added to their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning as freshman Lauren James singled through the middle of the field allowing freshman Brynn McArthur to score. GRCC finished the game allowing zero runs while Regner totaled 16 strikeouts en route to a 3-0 victory.
Following the win against MCC, the Raiders faced the 38-17 two-seeded Jackson College on Friday, May 12. Right out of the gate, the Jets scored in the top of the first inning with a sacrifice bunt to take a 1-0 lead. The Raiders failed to score any runs in the first two innings, as Jackson College scored one run again in the second inning to increase the lead. A single in the top of the third expanded the Jet lead to 3-0, but the Raiders answered back immediately as freshman Alyssa Wierenga singled to left field which drove in sophomore Jaye Guichelaar to cut the deficit to 3-1. Unfortunately for GRCC, they were held scoreless for the remainder of the game while the Jets added another run to their lead in the top of the seventh inning. The Raiders suffered their first loss of the tournament to Jackson College 4-1.
After a day of rest, the Raiders suited up in a win-or-go-home situation against the one-seeded Hocking College, on Saturday, May 12. Both teams took advantage of the other team’s mistake, as Guichelaar scored on a wild pitch in the top of the first inning, while the Hawks scored on a dropped fly ball in the bottom of the first inning. Guichelaar added to the lead in the top of the third inning with a single down the first base line which drove in Roersma for a 2-1 lead. The Raiders used both pitchers, freshman Macy Huver and Regner, who only allowed four hits combined while totaling 12 team strikeouts. Following a Roersma double in the top of the fifth inning, Guichelaar nailed a double to right field to drive in the run. In the top of the seventh inning, Hewitt hit a homerun which was the cherry on top. GRCC completed the shutout with a 3-1.
In the Regional championship and a rematch with Jackson College, the Raiders looked to avenge the prior two losses to the Jets, and had a potent start to the second inning with a James homerun to score the first. However, the Jets answered right back with a run of their own in the bottom of the second inning. Both teams stalled until the fourth inning, when the Jets scored three runs including a homerun to increase the lead to 4-1. The Raiders looked to rally in the sixth inning starting with a Wierenga single. Regner and McArthur both got on base and James hit a single to score one. Although the Raiders had three players on base, the Jets finished the inning only giving up one run. GRCC did not have enough in the tank in the seventh inning which led to a 4-2 loss. Huver started the game on the mound, while Regner finished the game. They combined for five strikeouts while giving up six hits.
GRCC softball finishes the season with a 25-18 record along with a share of a conference championship. Although the Raiders were unable to win the Regional Championship, the program took a stride in the right direction and head coach Chuck White believes the team will only improve in the upcoming years.
“This year, we set the standard as a program by winning a conference championship along with some postseason success,” White said. “Obviously there is work to be done, but I am very proud with how our team played this season and the progression that was made.”