By Travis Smola
Before the final out was called in the Division 2 state championship game, there wasn’t a single member of the Vicksburg Lady Bulldogs softball team who believed they were out of it.
In Vicksburg’s first ever appearance in a softball state title event, the Lady Bulldogs fell 2-0 in a tight game against Richmond at Michigan State University. It wasn’t the finish the girls had hoped for, but most were able to smile again after the awards ceremony was done and they were comforted by fans and family.
Sophomore pitcher Avery Slancik was sad the season was over but praised her teammates for their hard work. “I’m so proud of my girls; I couldn’t be happier, really,” Slancik said.
She said the loss would likely light a fire in the team for next season where their goal of a title will remain unchanged. In fact, she even had a bold prediction for the future. “You’ll see us back here.”
One would be hard-pressed to argue with her. The Lady Bulldogs had a season where they compiled a 36-9 overall record. Games were regularly short as they hit spectacularly all year and found ways to capitalize on the mistakes of their opponents.
They beat several ranked teams and the defending state champions, Wayland Union, in a 14-2 blowout along the way.
They were also a comeback team. In the semifinal game against Livonia Ladywood, the team rebounded from three runs down to win 7-5. Fans will have plenty to be excited about next year as the majority of the team will return. The only departing seniors are Olivia Holmes and Alicia Cagney.
Because Richmond and Vicksburg were such similar teams, it really felt like it could have gone either way. Things were scoreless through three innings when the Blue Devils were able to put a runner in scoring position after a Vicksburg error. They quickly capitalized on a ground ball for the first run. The only other run scored came after a Richmond player was able to easily run home on a high pitch.
Unfortunately, the Lady Bulldogs were only able to get on base twice. First was on a Slancik walk. Holmes got on first on a bunt in the third, but she was caught while trying to steal second. The lack of hits was surprising considering the huge scores the girls posted in games leading up to the final.
“Obviously they turned out to be the better team,” Head Coach Paul Gephardt said. “We didn’t hit the ball like we typically hit the ball.
“In the top of the seventh (inning) everyone believed we could win,” Gephardt said. He noted there is no quit in the team. Even though the Lady Bulldogs couldn’t get the bats going, they still played outstanding defense through the whole game that probably kept Richmond on edge until the very last out.
Junior center fielder Carlie Kudary and left fielder Cagney both had a spectacular catches in the outfield that prevented the Blue Devils from moving any more runners.
Even though the girls didn’t bring home the state title, a large crowd of fans still showed up and stayed to congratulate the girls on a great season. Athletic Director Mike Roy congratulated every player personally after the awards ceremony was over.
“They’ve done a great job,” Roy said. “They’ve brought a lot of pride to the community.”
Coach Gephardt agrees. “It helps to bring the community together,” Gephardt said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be their coach.”