BATTLE CREEK, Mich. - Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central didn't go into the Division 3 state championship game labeled as the favorite.
Defending state champion Unionville-Sebewaing held the honor and emphatically refused to release hold on state title bragging honors by delivering a convincing 8-0 victory over SMCC yesterday afternoon at Bailey Park.
The Patriots (39-2) clobbered three home runs during the game and left no doubt about who was No. 1. They put together a four-run eighth inning to put the finishing touches on repeating as state champions.
"I give them a lot of credit; they hit the ball hard," said SMCC coach Jon LaBeau, after the Patriots recorded 10 hits in the game. "They didn't get cheated on their swings."
Katie Rayl crushed a two-run home run with two outs in the first inning to give the Patriots an early lead. Her home run off SMCC ace Megan Drabek didn't just clear the center-field fence, it sailed over the spectators sitting in the bleachers behind the fence.
"I never had a girl [go] yard like that off me," Drabek said of Rayl's team-leading ninth home run of the season. "It was a shock at first, but they kept doing it.
"I just kept pitching the way I've been pitching all year. They're an awesome hitting team. They're great."
Danielle Gremel and Mercy Martinez also homered off Drabek, who was replaced on the mound by Carlie Giarmo in the sixth inning after giving up eight runs on 10 hits while striking out four and walking one.
Rayl, who will play next season for Michigan State University, recorded a game-high three RBIs. She nearly hit another homer later in the game but it was caught by Kristen Drabek right in front of the temporary outfield fence.
Her homer in the first inning, however, set the tone for the kind of afternoon the Kestrels (26-11) would be in for the rest of the game.
"It was just how I like it - outside and low," said Rayl, recalling the pitch that produced her base-clearing hit.
Emma LaBeau doubled and Amy Terrasi and Alicia Flynn had a base hit apiece to account for SMCC's hit total against USA starter Marissa Lemere, who earned the decision after also striking out five and walking one.
"I thought we swung the bat well - on and off - today," SMCC coach Jon LeBeau said. "That is a solid team over there. I thought [Lemere] didn't overpower us, but they also made some nice [defensive] plays, too."
SMCC catcher Beth Terrasi witnessed the Patriots' hitting from close range.
"We knew coming in they were going to hit but they had the best eyes and hands," Beth Terrasi said. "They were very fast [swinging their bats]."
SMCC trailed 2-0 for three innings before Gremel led off the fourth for USA with a solo home run in which Kestrels left fielder Kristen Drabek and center fielder Amy Terrasi raced to the fence in an attempt to catch it.
But the ball landed just outside of their reach and into the outfield bleachers. Drabek crashed into the fence but was not seriously hurt and remained in the game.
The Patriots added another run in the fifth after Katie Schaus led off the inning with a double and eventually scored on a base hit by Gremel to make it 4-0.
Martinez led off the sixth for USA with a solo shot to give the Patriots a 5-0 lead. Kristen Drabek had a shot at robbing her second home run of the game but pulled back from her pursuit after coming into contact with the fence in left field.
The Patriots went on to score three more runs before taking a comfortable 8-0 advantage in the seventh.
Losing to the defending champions in the title game doesn't diminish what the Kestrels were able to accomplish this season, according to coach LeBeau.
"It was a nice run," he said. "This was a talented team and we expected to have a great season this year. This was one of our goals. We wanted to play in this game.
"All they are thinking about right now is we didn't get it done today. This is not what they wanted. They wanted to win it."
Contact Donald Emmons at:
or 419-724-6302.42.31617 -85.18022