Howell softball coach Ron Pezzoni admits that the last out of Sunday’s regional championship game will stay with him for a long time.
“The last hitter came up from Gull Lake,” he recalled. “There was two outs and Molly (Carney, Howell’s pitcher) had pitched well to her the first couple times, and I looked at my assistant coach and said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this hitter to come up for four years.’”
Pezzoni and the Highlanders will be looking to make more memories today, when Howell takes on Plymouth in a Division 1 quarterfinal at Chelsea.
It’s one of two games involving county teams. Hartland is playing in a Division 1 quarterfinal against Clarkston at Wayne State University in a game that starts at 2 p.m.
“I’ve said it all along that this is Hartland’s year,” Pezzoni said. “They’re a great team. I think about when we played them at the beginning of the year, and we’re a totally different team. It would be fun to see where we’re at.”
Should both teams win today, they would meet in a semifinal at Michigan State University on Thursday.
Pezzoni, naturally, is focused on his team, which goes into today’s game with a 28-10 record, including two losses apiece to Plymouth and Hartland.
The second game against Plymouth (31-5) came in the KLAA crossovers, and the Highlanders were blown out 9-1.
“It wouldn’t have mattered who we played. We would have lost,” Pezzoni said. “We didn’t play well..”
Since then, the Highlanders have been following the lead of Molly Carney, who recovered from an auto accident during spring break to become lights-out in the postseason. She struck out 29 batters in Sunday’s regional, 17 of them in a 2-1, nine-inning win over Mattawan in which she gave up just one hit.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve played four postseason games and given up one earned run,” Pezzoni said. “When your pitcher throws zeroes, it’s hard to lose. She gives us a chance, and the kids feed on that.”
As for today’s game, “it almost always comes down to mistakes,” Pezzoni says. “I think Molly’s going to throw well, and (Jenny) Bressler is going to throw well for them. They’re swinging the bats better than at any time this season, and I think we are, too.”
If today’s winner and Hartland both get to the semifinals, it will guarantee the KLAA will have a berth in the Saturday’s state championship game.
“I’m really proud of the KLAA,” Pezzoni said. “We’ve got three teams in the final eight, and that’s nice to see. There are some teams (in the league) that aren’t great, but overall, we’re playing some pretty good softball.”