Abby Merice pitched both of Wayland’s regional games on Saturday, June 10. The Wildcats posted a 12-0 win over Forest Hills Eastern in the semis before suffering a 7-6 loss to Spring Lake in the finals. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

Wayland succumbs to Spring Lake in regional final

Leo Martonosi

 To be considered one of the best teams around you have to play—and beat—the best.
And Wayland definitely qualifies as one of the best softball programs in Division 2, having won a state title as recently as 2015 and annually making extended postseason runs.
So Spring Lake softball coach Bill Core knew exactly what his team was facing when it squared off with the Wildcats in a regional final at Hope College’s Karla and Tom Wolters Stadium on Saturday, June 10.
“I have so much respect for (Wayland coach) Cheri (Ritz) and her program,” said Core several minutes after his team won the school’s first regional championship in holding off the Wildcats  for the 7-6 victory.
Wayland had Core, his team and many faithful Laker fans biting their fingernails after Sydney Urben’s 3-run home run in the seventh inning pulled the Wildcats within one run.
Core, who recently pocketed his 500th career coaching win, was even more nervous when Wayland’s Chloe Coughlin stepped up to the plate with a runner on base and two outs on the scoreboard in that same inning.
“She’s a dangerous hitter,” Core said. “We knew what that girl was capable of doing.”
What Coughlin was capable of doing was hitting one over the fence herself, just as she had done in Wayland’s 12-0 win over Forest Hills Eastern in the regional semifinals earlier in the day.
“That girl can flat out hit,” Core said.
Coughlin did put a charge in the ball, but didn’t quite get all of it like she did against Forest Hills Eastern as it was caught on the warning track.
“I was so happy when I seen that my daughter (Jenna) had room near the fence to make the catch,” Core said.
While the Lakers celebrated their school-best 30th victory, the Wildcats were left to deal with a painful loss that saw them fall one short of making it to the state quarterfinals for the fourth straight season.
“This is hard,” Ritz said. “It’s a tough way to go out.”
Wayland, which secured its 13th OK Gold Conference title and ninth straight district championship, shut out Spring Lake in a weekend tournament, 2-0, early in the season.
“That game right there proved we could play with them and with the best teams in the state,” Core said.
This was the first time that Spring Lake had ever beaten Wayland in the postseason.
“That’s what makes this so hard,” Ritz said.
Ritz especially felt bad for her five seniors—Taylor Bell, Taryn Coughlin, Leigha Morse, Hannah Sikkema and Hunter Fenton.
“It’s always hard when it’s the seniors’ final game,” Ritz said.
Abby Merice, one of seven juniors on Wayland’s relatively young squad, pitched both of her team’s regional encounters.
“It’s always nice to have a good mixture in all of your classes,” Ritz said.
That even includes a freshman, as Lauren Chiaramonte is on the Wildcats’ roster.
Merice not only more than held her own on the mound, but enjoyed a productive day at the plate in game two by drilling a triple to open the game to go with two singles.
Besides Leigha Morse’s long dinger, Urben added two other safeties in the regional championship contest.
Urben also had her way at the plate against the Forest Hills Eastern hurler, checking in with two doubles. Bethany Teunissen and Sikkema finished with two hits apiece for the Wildcats, who ended another impressive season with a 25-8 record.
“I think that’s about the same record we had last year,” Chloe Coughlin said.


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