Div. 4 softball: Kalamazoo Christian 6, Vestaburg 1

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EAST LANSING — Kalamazoo Christian’s Division 4 state softball championship last season was the final year for coach Karla Reno.


Moving into her spot was Terry Reynolds, who helped out last season. Despite graduation losses and Reno’s departure, the Comets survived 16 losses and advanced to today’s state semifinal against Vestaburg.


The team was in good hands with Rebekah VanDam on the mound.


Christian’s ace senior struck out 12 in a dominating performance as the Comets advanced to the championship game with a 6-1 victory.


“I didn’t pitch a lot last year; we had a senior and I watched,” said VanDam. “Nothing new. Coach helped us out last year and he’s a really big help. We love him. I just tried to mix up my pitches and have them hit my pitch and have my fielders made the plays behind me.”


The one run was the first the Comets had allowed in the tournament.


“She was a good hitter; I thought I was going to get that pitch over, but I didn’t,” said VanDam.


The Wolverines defense was guilty of two errors in the first inning, the big one coming from the third basemen with two out, allowing two runs to score when she mishandled Hannah Rozeveld’s bouncer and then threw high to first.


Vestaburg’s (27-9) leaky defense was guilty of four errors.


Christian (28-16) scored another run in the third when Morgan Locker beat the throw from pitcher Jannelle Rons to home plate on a bunt attempt by VanDam.


Aliyah Lemmer then hit a bases loaded double over the head of the leftfielder to clear the bases and take a 6-0 lead.


Akisha Benavidez finally got the Wolverines on the board with a two-out single, scoring catcher Karigan Gates from third.


“She’s a hitter,” Reynolds said of Benavidez. “All my notes about her and everything I checked on her … That young lady hits the ball. I pitched it where we wanted it to go and she just hit it.”


Reynolds said team hit a rough stretch the middle of the season, but rebounded to get to the championship.


“This is my 11th year coaching; I coached at the varsity level before,” said Reynolds. “Taking over there’s a little bit of pressure. Everybody expects me to win. We had a rough mid-season, but the girls came back and they work hard and they love the game. They play hard for me. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”


VanDam said the target on the team’s back was part of the 16 losses.


“Everyone is out to get us, but we’re here and we’re ready to play and we’re ready to beat whoever we have to,” said VanDam. “We played a tough schedule to get here.”


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