By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Glen Lake baseball and Frankfort softball each had turning points this season that propelled them into today's Division 4 quarterfinals at Traverse City West.
Both involved losses. And both turned their seasons around.
The Lakers (27-7) take on Atlanta (23-2) in today's baseball quarterfinal, while the Panthers (24-14) face No. 3-ranked Rogers City. Both games are at noon.
Glen Lake's moment of truth came against Clare, while Frankfort's was in Rochester Hills.
"The way we played against Clare," Lakers coach Kris Herman said of the May 18 matchup with the Division 3 No. 3-ranked Pioneers. "They beat us 1-0. We lost the game, but we played good baseball. Later that day, we beat Rogers City — and the bats were absolutely ice cold. We were in the eighth game of an eight-game week, and the guys found a win to score four runs in the fifth inning and win that (4-1). After that day — the way we played against Clare and the way we really hung tough and gutted one out against Rogers City — I though, 'This could be a pretty special postseason.'"
Frankfort started out 6-7 in April.
"We went down to Rochester Hills and played Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, who is coached by a friend of mine," Panthers coach Mike Thompson said. "We played in a doubleheader that Friday and kind of got embarrassed. We felt those were two games we should have won. We woke up Saturday morning to play the tournament itself down there, and the girls made a conscious decision, like 'We're not going to play like this anymore.' We mercied Ann Arbor Greenhills and turned around beat Lutheran Northwest, the team we lost to twice the night before. And beat them kind of soundly, 14-7. That was the turning point. ... They have played outstanding since then."
Frankfort has posted an 18-7 mark since, with several of those losses coming at the hands of much larger schools.
"They've come a long way in six weeks," Thompson said.
In Saturday's regional final win over Bellaire, Keelan Kelly drove in run twice after Courtney Bower triples — once to tie the game and another to provide the game-winning run.
"They have just been lights out over about the last month," Thompson said.
Bower comes into the quarters with a streak of hitting in 19 of her last 20 games. She's hitting .452 and has hit all three of her home runs this season in the last two weeks. Kelly is hitting .422.
Lead-off hitter Anna Hunt has at least one base hit in 34 of the Panthers' 38 games.
"She has hit everybody," Thompson said of the freshman catcher, who forms the team's battery with older sister Aleah.
Glen Lake, meanwhile, has also been able to hit against most everyone.
The lineup is dotted with four players hitting over .400, including junior infielder Thomas Waning (.437), sophomore first baseman Austin Odziana (.456), junior catcher Trevor Apsey (.409) and freshman outfielder Travis Moore (.424). Adding to the lineup's string of dangerous hitters is senior shortstop Curtis Bunek, who is hitting .395, second baseman Tristan Williams (.365) and center fielder Riley Scanlon, who is hitting .333 with runners in scoring position. Freshman outfielder Zach Cooper and third baseman Dale Pleva round out the potent batting order.
"I've been a coach for 24 years now, and this is one of the most mentally tough teams that I've been around," Herman said. "They're fighters. ... I attribute a lot of the mental toughness we have right now to guys like (football coach) Jerry Angers and (basketball coach) Todd Hazelton, who fostered that during the football and basketball seasons. We really are benefiting. We have a bunch of guys who are baseball-only — we only have one basketball players in our starting lineup and four football players in our lineup — but that's enough. We have enough guys to plant seeds and you can really establish an identity about yourself based on how the football and basketball seasons went. A lot of the success we're having right now is a credit to Jerry and Todd and what they did with their programs this year."
Herman said he hasn't chosen a starting pitcher for today's game. Waning (9-4) threw 9.2 innings Saturday — seven in the opener and 2.2 in the final. His innings clock reset according to MHSAA guidelines because he's had two days off.
"He probably had his biggest workload he's had in awhile on Saturday," Herman said. "He's done it before. He's carried a heavy workload before. In his travel leagues, he's pitched a lot of innings. He takes care of himself really well, and mechanically, he's really sound. All those things are very positive as far as coming back from a hard day."
Cooper is 6-1 as the team's No. 2 pitcher.