Little League softball: Gladstone wins Little League Major state championship

TECUMSEH — State champions. That’s the best way to describe what the Gladstone Major Girls’ All-Stars (ages 11-12) became Wednesday, using a 10-run fifth inning to spill Vicksburg 13-4 in a Little League softball state championship game.

“It’s just been an amazing ride with a special group of girls,” Gladstone manager Rick Pepin said. “For all the time and hard work these kids have put in with all-stars and travel softball, this is their reward.”

Leading 3-2 entering the fifth inning, Gladstone erupted for 10 runs to gain a 13-2 cushion.

“Everybody took a turn contributing in that inning,” Pepin said. “Everybody had a part in it.”

Despite the big win, Gladstone didn’t get off to a great start. After it opened a 1-0 lead on a RBI triple by Montgomery Pepin in the top of the first, Vicksburg scored twice in the bottom half to go up 2-1. Vicksburg took advantage of three Gladstone errors to load the bases, then scored two runs on a hard hit ball to right field. However, Gladstone nailed the third runner at the plate on the relay from right fielder Samantha Drielick to first baseman Maggie Buckley and then to home, where catcher Lauren Sundquist held on to the ball during a collision for the final out.

“We actually had a rough start in the first inning,” manager Pepin said. “We got out of a tough situation, and then the next four innings we didn’t allow a baserunner. To be able to overcome that and run away with it is just a compliment to our girls and how determined they were.”

Gladstone took the lead for good on a two-run single by Pepin to score Addie Trombley and Sundquist in the third.

Vicksburg scored its final two runs in the sixth, but it was far too little, too late.

Pepin earned the complete game victory, surrendering four runs on four hits while striking out 11 and walking two. She was also 4 for 4 with four RBIs, Sundquist was 3 for 4 with two RBIs, and Trombley was 2 for 4 with an RBI. As a team, Gladstone had 15 hits.

“We’re just so happy for the girls,” manager Pepin said. “This is a lifetime memory that they will have with them for the rest of their life. Myself and the other two coaches are just blessed to be a part of it.”

Gladstone upended Grandville 5-1 earlier in the day in the semifinals to get to the title game. Gladstone jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, then added single runs in the third and fourth.

Grandville scored its lone run in the fifth.

“We scored three runs right away and got that quick start that we wanted,” manager Pepin said. “We played great softball today and it started in that game. Grandville had a couple opportunities to gain momentum, but we just made plays all day long again. Other than the first inning of the championship game, it was just a great day for Gladstone softball. It’s like everything came together at the right time.”

Pepin earned the victory, fanning 12 while giving up just one run on two hits and two walks. Buckley went 2 for 3 for Gladstone, which had nine hits.

“I just want to give a great big thank you to all the parents that have helped make this journey be so magical, and a thank you to the Escanaba and Gladstone community with help for fundraising and finances and for all their support,” manager Pepin said.

Gladstone now heads to Indianapolis to play in the Central Regional tournament starting Monday. Gladstone is in the same pool with state champs from Ohio and Missouri.