From left, Monroe's Katie Cooley, Amanda Straub and Amber Rafko hold hands after the loss.
CHELSEA, Mich. - The concern all season for the Monroe softball team was supplying adequate run support for pitching ace Jessica Irwin.
On most afternoons this season the Trojans delivered enough offense to help achieve a 30-win season.
That was not the case against Fenton in a Division 1 state quarterfinal yesterday at Chelsea High. Fenton pitcher Elizabeth Rockman kept Monroe scoreless on three hits en route to leading the Tigers to a 2-0 victory over the Trojans to earn a spot in the state semifinals.
"I just knew it was going to catch up to us, and once you get into the state playoffs and lose it's over," said Monroe coach Vince Rossi.
However, Monroe wasn't facing an ordinary pitcher.
Rockman was overpowering with her rise-ball and mixed in off-speed pitches. She struck out 10 while giving up three hits, including two doubles by Brittany Cousino. Amber Rafko singled for the Trojans' other hit.
"We didn't know a lot about them, so we didn't know what to expect," said Rockman, who helped her team improve to 31-9.
Irwin, who fanned 14 batters, allowed two runs on three hits and three walks. - the kind of showing that normally leads to a victory for the Trojans (30-6-1).
"We're really, really close, and that's why this is so hard because we know we'll probably never play again with each other," said Irwin, a senior, while wiping away tears.
A shaky first inning led to Fenton's runs. Aleishia Giesey came through with the only hit of the inning when she tagged a two-out, run scoring triple off Irwin for a 1-0 Fenton lead, then crossed home plate moments later on an error to make it 2-0.
The early lead allowed Rockman to do her part without much pressure.
"That took a lot off my shoulders," said Rockman of the Tigers's quick lead.
Rossi complimented Rockman for her effort, which often kept the Trojans guessing at the plate.
"I thought we were well-prepared for her," he said. "I thought we were well-programmed for her, but it just wasn't meant to be."
The Trojans had their share of opportunities to score. Rafko led off the first inning with a base hit and ended up getting stranded on second when Rockman struck out Irwin to end the inning. Cousino led off the second with a double to right-center and was also left stranded on second. She doubled with two outs in the seventh to keep hope alive for a late rally, but the next batter grounded out to end the contest.
The Trojans did not lose perspective, however.
"I couldn't be more proud about this team," Irwin said. "We made it farther in the tournament than any team I've every been on."
Contact Donald Emmons at:
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