Lake Fenton — It’s a team that doesn’t have a single senior on it.
But, that doesn’t matter when it comes to the Linden varsity softball team.
The squad does have a few other important characteristics. The squad is talented and mentally strong. The Eagles have proven they can deal with tight ball games as well. All those things were on display during the Eagles’ Division 2 district championship run at Lake Fenton High School on Monday.
The Eagles won a thriller against the Lake Fenton Blue Devils 5-4 in eight innings, and then defeated the Goodrich Martians 6-2 in the title game, to earn their district crown.
“It means a lot because there are no seniors,” Linden catcher Ellie Klocek said. “There wasn’t a lot of leadership going in, but a lot of juniors and even some sophomores have prospered so it means a lot to do it without any seniors.
“It was pretty difficult to think about it because normally there are at least one or two that know the ropes, but we have three or four girls that have been here since their freshman year that are juniors, so they took over the leadership role.”
Linden (26-8-1) returns to action on Saturday at the Chelsea Regional with a semifinal contest against Eaton Rapids (36-3) at noon. The winner of that game will play either Chelsea or Fowlerville in the regional title game at about 2 p.m. that same day.
“We are really proud of what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished through the year,” pitcher Jordyn Hobson said. “I’m really happy and really excited about it.”
“They are talented and have worked hard,” Linden varsity softball coach Gordon Jamison said. “They’ve put the mental effort into it. They remain strong through games and are focused.”
The district began at Lake Fenton High School on Saturday, but rain disrupted the Lake Fenton-Linden semifinal with the Blue Devils leading 3-1 at the time. A Taylor Godlewski three-run home run in the top of the third inning helped set up the Blue Devils’ lead at the time. Lake Fenton made it a 4-1 lead in the top of the fourth when Christina Lamb singled to start the inning and Allie Lavallier eventually plated her with a single.
However, the Eagles chipped away at the lead. A two-run fourth — set up by back-to-back doubles by Maddie Morse and Katie Strickert — helped plate two runs, cutting the gap to 4-3. It remained 4-3 until Morse, who had three hits in the contest, hit a solo home run to center field in the sixth, tying the game at 4-4.
In the bottom of the eighth, Morse legged out an infield single and scored on Strickert’s two-run double, earning the Eagles the victory.
“I went up and I as really focused on making sure I kept the ball down,” Strickert said. “I saw a pitch and I thought that’s the one. I was filled with a lot of excitement because I knew Maddie was going to score.”
The loss ended the Blue Devils’ strong season. The Blue Devils were without their normal head coach Amos Rinks, who was out with a suspension.
“The effort has been tremendous all season,” Lake Fenton assistant and acting head coach Eric Meyers said. “You hurt for the seniors because they wanted it. But you have to give credit to Linden, too. They are a good ball club. They are well coached and made the plays, too.”
In the title game against Goodrich, Linden slowly edged itself to a nice lead, scoring a run in the first, second and fourth innings while adding two in the third. The Eagles led 5-0. Goodrich cut the gap to 5-2 with a two-run home run in the sixth, but the Eagles scored another run in the sixth to make sure they earned the comfortable win.
Jillian Widner had a home run of her own against Goodrich, a solo shot in the bottom of the third inning. Linden had 10 hits with Widner, Klocek and Hobson each having two hits each. Mikayla Dettman, Hobson, Klocek and Morse had doubles.
Hobson won both games on the mound. Against Goodrich, she struck out seven and allowed eight hits en route to the complete-game victory. Against Lake Fenton, she allowed 10 hits but walked none over eight innings, earning the win. She also struck out 12 batters.