By RON DEUTER
NORWAY - Norway has won four straight district baseball titles. But when it comes to regional play, the Knights have come up short.
Norway HIGH SCHOOL’s baseball and softball teams captured MHSSA Division 4 district titles last week in Ironwood. Both teams will be in Rogers City Saturday for regional play. Pictured, front row from left: Cody Carlson, Garrett Bonetti, Jake Rehn, Taylor Bonetti, John Edwardsen, Kevin Evosevich, Dane VanDenHeuvel, Caleb Tinkey, Coach Scott Conery. Middle Row: Jacey Bal, Holli Lambert, Rachel Conery, Sydney Smaniotti, Jada Lasater, Britta Grayvold, Lindsey DeBernardi, Bobbi Hulce, Jamie LaCount, Mimi Hladik. Back Row: Coach Tony Adams, Coach Jeff Bal, Coach Mike Maule, Justin Bal, Bryce Grayvold, Bryce Plante, Alex Carlson, Jorden Neumann, Austin Grayvold, Nick Pearman, Mike Faull, Coach Ron Faull, Coach Bob (Kuba) Bal.
After coming oh-so-close last year, falling 2-1 to Atlanta in a regional final, head coach Tony Adams and company hope to change that trend Saturday.
"As a program, we feel like we let a regional championship get away last year," he said. "So that should serve as extra motivation this weekend."
Norway (11-8) will be in Rogers City Saturday, taking on Indian River Inland Lakes in a MHSAA Region 25 semifinal. Game time is 9 a.m. (Central).
"Indian River Inland Lakes is a team that we have not seen in the regionals over the years," Adams said. "As a district winner and our opponent, we will show them respect and we will be ready to play."
The Bulldogs ended a 16-year district title drought last weekend, blanking Alanson 11-0 in its district final. Indian Lakes got to that game after a 5-4 win over St. Ignace in a district semifinal.
"We've had a pretty rough season. We've had a lot of ups and downs and of course the weather kicked our butt too," Bulldogs head coach Jason McGovern told the Petoskey News. "They finally showed that when we work hard as a team, we can do this.
"It's been pretty bittersweet the
last couple of years falling short in the championship games. It's been a long time coming."
In the five inning win over Alanson, senior pitcher Todd Athey totaled 14 strikeouts.
Sophomore pitcher John Edwardsen guided the Knights in their 3-0 district title win over Ironwood. After allowing two hits in the first inning, the lefty only gave up two more hits the rest of the way, whiffing seven.
Johannesburg-Lewiston (25-7) and Rudyard (18-5) battle in the other semifinal, playing after the Knights and Bulldogs. Regional title game will follow.
"Overall, this has historically been a competitive region and I don't see it being different this year," Adams said. "Rudyard and Johannesburg have known programs. We will have to pound the strike zone, play efficiently on defense, and put the ball in play on offense. Our focus, execution, discipline, and toughness will have to be at a high level because it takes two wins on the same day to advance."
Softball hopes to turn first region appearance in first region crown
By BURT ANGELI
NORWAY - Norway and Rapid River will represent the U.P. in an MHSAA Division 4 softball regional Saturday at Rogers City.
The Rockets and host Hurons (29-6) will open the regional at 9 a.m. (Central time), with the Knights (19-6) and young Indian River Inland Lakes Bulldogs to follow in the second semifinal.
"We haven't been able to find out much about our opponent," Norway Coach Scott Conery said. "But what we know is that if you get to this level you have to expect everyone is going to be good."
Inland Lakes edged Pellston 2-1 for the first district crown since 2005.
"It's awesome," Inland Lakes coach Krissi Thompson said. "We start six freshmen. We were able to overcome adversity in the difference in grades and come together as a team and just dominate all season. This is a good group of girls that busted their guts all season."
Freshman Cloe Mallory threw a no-hitter against the Hornets, striking out a season-high 15 batters.
Rapid River Coach George Kanyuh recorded his 100th career win at the district. The Rockets, behind pitcher Savannah Stenlund, downed Superior Central 5-2 for the title.
Stenlund allowed two runs on three hits and no walks, while striking out 15.
"Rapid River is a good team with really good pitching," said SC Richard Swajanen, whose Cougars lost to the Rockets for a fifth time this season. "Stenlund pitched well. She didn't walk anyone and we could never get a free base off her."
Stenlund threw a third consecutive no-hitter, and second straight perfect game, when the Rockets defeated Rudyard 11-0 in the district semifinals.
Rogers City, a state semifinalist last season, blanked Hillman 10-0 for a third straight district championship.
"We've got a great group of girls here and they work hard," Rogers City Coach Karl Grambau said. They've earned it. The girls have worked really hard and their goals are high."
Norway knocked off tourney host Ironwood for the program's first district title.
"We know Rapid is tough as usual and Rogers City is very good as well," Conery said. "If we play like we have been, I like our chances against anyone.
"We really need our pitching and defense to be playing well. Any lapses and teams will make you pay. These girls have given 100 percent all year long and I don't expect that to change on Saturday."
Regional winner from Rogers City advances to the state quarterfinals Tuesday, June 10, at Traverse City.
(Ogden Newspapers contributed to this story)