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Trojans end 19-year district title draught

Thornapple Kellogg's Ashley Snyder leaps a bat on her way to the plate to give her team a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning against Wayland Monday. Snyder homered in her final two at bats in the Division 2 District Final to help the Trojans' secure the district championship with an 11-5 win over the Wildcats at Hopkins High School. (Photo by Brett Bremer)

Sports Editor, Brett Bremer, reports Bella VanTil muscled the ball over the left centerfield fence to take away Wayland's only lead in her first at-bat.

Ashley Snyder drilled a two-run home run over the left field fence and a solo homer to center in her final two at-bats to make sure the Wildcats never got the lead again.

Those three home runs, by juniors in their third varsity season, powered the Thornapple Kellogg varsity softball team to an 11-5 victory over OK Gold Conference rival, and long-time nemesis, Wayland in the Division 2 District Final at Hopkins High School Monday.

Thornapple Kellogg head coach Tom Hudson passed off the district championship trophy to senior Kara Burbridge, after accepting it from athletic director Brian Hammer, and it wasn't too long afterwards that the TK ladies took their trophy out onto the baseball field at Hopkins High School to celebrate alongside the TK varsity baseball team that captured its third consecutive conference championship Monday.

It is the first district championship for the TK ladies since 2000. Wayland also won a Division 2 district championship in 2000 – one of 16 district titles for the Wildcats in the past 20 seasons.

TK will travel to Edwardsburg Saturday for its Division 2 Regional Tournament where it will take on Vicksburg in the regional semifinals at 10 a.m. Olivet and Stevensville Lakeshore meet in the tournament's other semifinal match-up.

Wayland got the jump on the TK ladies in the top of the second inning Monday, pushing across a run on four straight singles, including a couple of the bunt variety. TK managed to retire a pair of Wildcats on the base-paths without too much damage done. It was a scenario that played out again and again throughout the afternoon. TK starting pitcher Bre Lake set the Wildcats down 1-2-3 in the first inning, but the Wildcats managed to keep the base paths busy the rest of the day – stranding eight runners on base over the final six innings.

That 1-0 Wayland lead didn't last long. VanTil hit a solo home run with one-out in the bottom half of the second to tie the game. She said she had a bit of a fire in her, thinking the Trojans should have gotten out of the first inning without giving up a run.

“I kind of just went at bat, cool and calm, breathing in, breathing out,” VanTil said. “It is always Wayland, our rivals, so I just wanted to get in there and just smack it. I saw that first pitch right down the middle and I just took a swing at it. It felt good. I rounded first and I see it over.”

“It was pretty cool.”

Snyder reached on a Wayland error right after the home run and eventually scored on a two-out RBI double from Carly Grummet to give the Trojans their first lead at 2-1.

The game was eventually 4-4 going into the bottom of the fifth inning before VanTil and Snyder started a five-run Trojan rally.

VanTil doubled down the left field line with one-out and then trotted home on Snyder's first home run of the ballgame. Burbridge then beat out a bunt single, Grummet doubled, and Burbridge scored on an RBI groundout from Maleah Bailey. Paige VanStee doubled home Bailey and then came home to score when the Wildcat centerfielder dropped a deep fly-ball from Shylin Robirds.

TK 5-6-7-8 hitters VanTil, Snyder, Burbridge and Grummet scored nine of the Trojans' 11 runs in the ballgame.

“We have been pretty consistent lately. They moved the ball and hit it hard through the tournament and before it. You never rest,” Hudson said. “There were things happening on both sides. They saw the ball pretty good today and they hit it well. It's good for them.”

“It's a good feeling for those kids and for the school.”

VanTil and Snyder said a lot of work, both offseason work and extra time during the season, went into making the Trojan line-up a dangerous one from top to bottom.

VanTil was 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBI and two doubles in the ball game, hitting out of the number five spot for the Trojans. Her home run was her first of this season.

“We work offseason and on-season,” VanTil said. “Coach (Jon) Greenman is always there for us, Tuesday and Thursday, and even Monday and Wednesday during offseason through the fall. Everybody wants to work hard, because we want that championship. We want to win. We want to be that team that makes a difference in TK.

“I think everybody understands that concept of working hard, and hard work that will pay off. We have put in so much time and so much effort. Even people who were in sports in the winter, they came in and they worked hard, they did the weekends. They put in the time. They put in the effort and it really shows when we come out and play a tight, tight game.”

Wayland put together three straight singles and a ground out to score one run in the top of the third, but TK answered with a lead-off double from senior Robirds and an RBI single by VanTil for a 3-2 edge.

Burbridge scored on a pair of Wildcat overthrows to lead off the bottom of the fourth after a ground ball to the right side.

Wayland evened the ballgame at 4-4 with two runs in the top of the fifth. Wayland's Kayla Reed led off the inning with a single and scored on a one-out double from Kennedy Cole. Cole came around to score on an RBI single from Rya VanderKooi – her second RBI of the ballgame.

After TK took its 9-4 lead, Wayland tacked on one run against VanStee who came on in relief in the top of the sixth. She walked two and gave up an RBI single to Kayla Reed.

Snyder homered again with two out in the bottom of the sixth, her sixth home run of the season. TK tacked on a final run with Burbridge singling into center and coming around on an RBI double from VanStee.

“I'm so excited. I've wanted this, especially beating Wayland in the finals, it is so exciting,” Snyder said.

“They're our arch nemesis. We have always been rivals, especially in softball. We tied with conference champs with them last year, so.”

“It was a little nerve-wracking of course, but I knew that we could pull it off,” Snyder added.

Lake returned to the circle in the seventh for TK. VanderKooi beat out an infield single, but Lake got a pair of fly-outs before her final pitch blew by the bat of a Wildcat batter into the glove of catcher Mo Sprague for a stike out to end the ballgame.

Lake threw six innings for TK, allowing four runs on 12 hits. She struck out three and didn't walk a batter.

The Trojans and Wildcats shared the 2018 OK Gold Conference championship, with the Wildcats besting the TK ladies for a district championship at the end of the season. The Trojans captured the OK Gold Conference championship outright this spring with a sweep of a doubleheader with the Wildcats last month in Middleville.

It was coach Hudson's Wyoming Rogers team that ended the TK tournament run in 2000, besting the Trojans 9-0 in the regional finals on its way to one of six state finals appearances under Hudson's guidance. His Golden Hawks won three state championships during his time with the program.

The Trojans got their district semifinal in Saturday morning, besting host Hopkins 11-1 before storms moved through the area postponing the remainder of the district tournament to Monday afternoon. Wayland scored a 10-0 win over Allegan in its district semifinal match-up Monday.

Lake belted a two-run home run in the first inning to get things started for TK Saturday. Sprague had a single, a double and an RBI. Snyder had a single, a double and two RBI. Bailey knocked a two-run double. VanStee singled once, drove in two runs, scored two runs and stole two bases. Robrids drove in one run as well in the win over the Vikings.

 

 

 

VanTil said she got a little fire in her

I kind of got a little fire in me. That should have been an out. I kind of just went at bat, cool and calm, breathing in, breathing out, and it is always Wayland our rivals, so I just wanted to get in there and just smack it. I saw that first pitch right down the middle and I just took a swing at it. It felt good. I rounded first and I see it over and I got a home run. It was pretty cool.

I kind of just went at bat, cool and calm, breathing in, breathing out, and it is always Wayland our rivals, so I just wanted to get in there and just smack it. I saw that first pitch right down the middle and I just took a swing at it. It felt good. I rounded first and I see it over and I got a home run. It was pretty cool.

of Monday afternoon's Division 2 Dis

Hudson

We have been pretty consistent lately. They moved the ball and hit it hard through the tournament and before it. You never rest. There were things happening on both sides. They saw the ball pretty good today and they hit it well. It's good for them. I don't know when the last time was. It's a good feeling for those kids and for the school.

 

It is more gut feeling, what have you got here.

Little room between the 6th and 7th

it's just more of a gut and it worked out for us. It has been those kids pretty consistently throughout the whole year. They know at any time one can come in for the other. They're teammates. They battle for each other.

 

We know there is a good history with that program. We don't try to get too high or too low. It is what can we do ourselves without worrying too much. That is what we kind of focus on. We told those kids, let's take it an inning or an out at a time and see how we do. If something doesn't go our way, then we've got to refocus and they did.

 

VanTil

After that one play at second where they called her safe and not out. I kind of got a little fire in me. That should have been an out. I kind of just went at bat, cool and calm, breathing in, breathing out, and it is always Wayland our rivals, so I just wanted to get in there and just smack it. I saw that first pitch right down the middle and I just took a swing at it. It felt good. I rounded first and I see it over and I got a home run. It was pretty cool.

 

First home run of the year. Freshman year had four home runs and one as a sophomore.

I was kind of in a slump thinking, oh my gosh it is kind of weird not to get a home run.

 

We have very good team chemistry where we can just pick each other up if one part of the batting line-up isn't doing too hot, the other half will be. In infield, we always pick each other up. Mental mistakes aren't going to create a game for us. I think we do a great job of picking each other up, learning from our mistakes and also getting over our mistakes and kind of picking each other up and just constantly, constantly working hard and giving 100 miles per hour.

 

We work offseason and onseason. Coach Greenman is always there for us, Tuesday and Thursday, and even Monday and Wednesday during offseason through the fall. Everybody wants to work hard, because we want that championship. We want to win. We want to be that team that makes a difference in TK. I think everybody understands that concept of working hard, and hard work that will pay off. We have pout in so much time and so much effort. Even people who were in sports in the winter, they came in and they worked hard, they did the weekends. They put in the time. They put in the effort and it really shows when we come out and play a tight, tight game.

 

VanTil third year on varsity.

 

Snyder

fifth and sixth home runs of the season. Junior this spring.

We just work hard in practice and come in every Sunday and do some extra hitting. It is a lot of work.

Sundays during the season.

Third year on varsity, as a freshman too,

Audrey Mulder a junior on varsity since freshman year.

I'm so excited. I've wanted this, especially beating Wayland in the finals, it is so exciting.

They're our arch nemesis. We have always been rivals, especially in softball. We tied with conference champs with them last year, so.

It was a little nerve wracking of course, but I knew that we could pull it off. We always get a little more nervous playing Wayland than any other team.

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