BY ED WRIGHT
June 13, 2010, 6:45 p.m.
The better the season, the tougher the end.
So it was no surprised that when Plymouth's ultra-successful softball team met for the final time in the outfield of Novi's softball field Saturday night following a 3-0 Regional Final loss to Lakeland, emotions ran high.
"One of the reasons this team was so good was because these girls cared so much," said Plymouth coach Val Canfield. "That why there was so much emotion when it ended.
"The hardest part is realizing it was the final game, the final at-bats for our three seniors. And Stacey Klonowski and Amanda Burnard won't be playing side-by-side again after doing so for four year. It's not easy. It's a sad day."
Following a rousing 3-1 victory over Farming ton Hills Mercy in the morning semifinal game, the Wildcats had to sit around for a few hours while Lakeland and West Bloomfield tangled for the other title berth.
The two hour wait can sap a team of its momentum and -- on a steamy hot day like Saturday - it can lower player energy levels.
"One year, I'd love to play back-to-back," said Canfield. "The waiting around can be tough on the team."
Lakeland starting pitcher Michelle Stiltner did what few pitchers have been able to accomplish this spring: silence the Wildcats' potent bats.
Stiltner was splendid, separated by a perfect game only by Wildcat freshman second baseman Bri Giordano's sharply-hit fifth-inning single.
"I think we pressed a little bit too hard," said Canfield. "Of our 21 at bats, we only struck out twice; we just hit the ball at people. You can't be mad at a team when they're hitting the ball hard."
Lakeland sophomore Kelsey Johnson was flawless at shortstop, making challenging plays seem easy.
Stiltner kept the ball low, yielding just two fly balls to the outfield.
Lakeland scored the only runs it would need in the first when Kelsey Cleary reached on a bunt single and advanced to third when Johnson's can-of-corn flyball to center field was misplayed by the Wildcats' outfielder, but runners at second and third without nobody out.
Clearly scored on Sierra Burke's ground out and Johnson came home on Anna Armstrong's bunt single.
The added an insurance run in the second when Devan Olah singled with out out and eventually scored on a Plymouth throwing error.
Plymouth starting pitcher Elaine Gerou cruised the rest of the way, retiring 14 of the next 17 batters.
The defensive play of the day for Plymouth came in the third when left-fielder Lauren Smith made a spectacular running catch while retreating on a blast hit by Carlee Meek.
Gerou finished with one strikeout.
The Wildcats finished with a sparkling record to 27-13.
Klonowski and Burnard finished their careers that rank among the best in Wildcat history, both at the plate and in the field.
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or email@example.com
Gerou pitched well enough to win Saturday against Lakeland, yielding
just five hits. (Ed Wright photo)
Stacey Klonowski takes a rip at a pitch in her final high school game. (Ed Wright photo)