by RANDY GREGORY
Things appeared oh so promising for Rockford as the fifth inning wound to a close against Muskegon Mona Shores in regional action at Jenison on Saturday, June 9. The Rams had just pushed across a run to increase their lead to 3-1, and Ashley Mengyen had allowed only two hits while completely baffling the Sailor batters. Then, the roof seemingly caved in on Rockford. A cavalcade of hits by Mona Shores and errors (both physical and mental) by the Rams led to a four-run outburst that turned a two-run lead into a two-run deficit.
Things got even worse for the Rams in the top of the seventh as the same combination of hits and errors led to six more runs crossing the plate for the Sailors. The 11-3 score stood up through the end of the contest and the Sailors advanced to the regional finals against Hudsonville. Hudsonville scored two runs in the seventh inning of the title tilt to edge Mona Shores 2-1 and advance to quarterfinal play.
“That was kind of a microcosm of our season today,” said Rockford Coach Troy Brown. “Our theme in most of our losses this year has been to outplay teams for the vast majority of the game, but then have one inning where we kind of lose our focus. We had a lot of chances to build a bigger lead today, but we just couldn’t quite come up with the decisive hit. Give Mona Shores some credit, because they had several well-placed hits, but we played a part in it as well.”
Mona Shores got on the board first with an opening inning homer, but Rockford had an immediate retort. Rachel Feinauer doubled in a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first to make it a 2-1 Rockford lead. Mackenzie Vallad singled in another run in the bottom of the fifth to set the stage for the fateful final two innings.
Rockford pounded out 12 hits in the contest en route to leaving 10 runners on base. Mona Shores, as a point of contrast, left only four runners on while scoring 11. The Ram hit parade was led by Vallad with a perfect three-for-three showing. Both of Feinauer’s hits were doubles, while Isabelle Mudgett and Hannah Pattok (double) had a pair of hits as well.
With the loss, the Rams finished out a successful campaign that saw them end up with a final record of 25-17. They also return the vast majority of the roster next year while losing only two seniors (Carmen Zeboor and Kayla Tykosky). Two juniors, four sophomores and a freshman comprised the normal starting lineup for a very young Ram team.
“We are going to miss our seniors and the leadership they provided this year,” said Brown. “But by the same token, Bob Wells, Brad Thomas and I can’t wait to begin working on next year as well. We will be a year older and a year wiser, and the future is bright for Rockford softb