ALMA, Mich. - What a difference a day makes.
One day after the Heidelberg University softball team run-ruled Benedictine (Ill.), 8-0, to advance to the regional championship, the Student Princes lost twice to Eagles. Benedictine won 2-1 in the opener, forcing the winner-take-all Game 7 -- which they also won, 13-3, in six innings.
Heidelberg's season comes to a tearful end at 30-13. Benedictine advances to the Super Regional.
REGIONAL GAME 6: Benedictine 2 Heidelberg 1
An RBI double in the third and a sacrifice fly in the fifth gave Benedictine, batting as the visitors, a 2-0 lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Haylee Patel ignited the inning with a single to right. An Eagle error put Lisa Simmons on first and moved Patel to third. Patel scored on a single up the middle by Taylor Hicks.
The run was all the Student Princes could muster against Benedictine starter Holly Haberkorn. Haberkorn gave up three runs in one-third of an inning on Saturday, but limited HU to five hits and no earned runs in the game.
Berg starter Erin Chapman (15-6) had another solid outing for her team. She held Benedictine to two runs on seven hits.
REGIONAL GAME 7: Benedictine 13 Heidelberg 3 (6 innings)
The Eagles wasted no time in the decisive seventh game. They score twice in the first and four times in the third inning to take a commanding 6-0 lead.
Heidelberg sprang to life in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs and runners on the corners, Kayla Zachrich singled home Hicks. After a walk to Abbey McKee loaded the bases, Patel sent a single through the left side that brought in Marissa Smego and Zachrich.
Undaunted, the Eagles regained momentum in the bottom of the frame with a pair of runs. They ended the game with a five-run sixth inning, capped by a three-run homer.
Paige Atterholt (14-5) started for HU, going 2+ innings before giving way to Chapman.
Following the tournament, Patel, Hicks and Smego received All-Tournament Team honors. Patel was 6-for-11 (.545) with four runs driven in. Smego was 5-for-11 (.455) with three sacrifice bunts. Hicks was 6-for-15 (.400).
PURPOSE WITH DISTINCTION
While their classmates were in Tiffin receiving their diplomas, Heidelberg's senior quintet -- Lisa Simmons, Kayla Zachrich, Paige Atterholt, Mikaela Mitsch and Marissa Smego -- were in Alma, Michigan. The impact that the five have had is immense. They won 101 games, most by a graduating class in program history.
- Simmons -- Two-time All-OAC honoree ... .323 career average ... pursuing a career in law enforcement.
- Zachrich -- Two-time All-OAC honoree and All-Region in 2015 ... Started in all 160 games over the past four seasons ... Career leader in triples (15) ... pursuing a career in law enforcement.
- Atterholt -- All-Region and All-OAC honoree in 2015 ... Career leader in wins (48), complete games (47), and innings pitched (424.1) ... Tied for second in career strikeouts (188) ... Has accepted a special education teaching position in Clyde, Ohio.
- Mitsch -- Two-time All-OAC honoree and All-Region in 2015 ... Two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team selection ... Career leader in RBIs (148), doubles (48), and home runs (29) ... Tied for career lead in hits (200) ... Second in career average (.436) ... Has accepted a graduate position with Heidelberg softball.
- Smego -- Two-time All-OAC honoree and All-Region in 2015 ... 2015 OAC Batting Champion ... Single-season record for hits (71 in 2015) and doubles (21 in 2016) ... .391 lifetime average ... Tied for career lead in hits (200) ... Has accepted a graduate position in athletic marketing & information at Heidelberg.
Head coach Betsy Hada on the day: "We wouldn't be where we are and our team wouldn't be on the national stage without our five seniors ... We fight every pitch and go into battle together."
Smego on the season as a whole: "Last year, we cruised through the conference and cruised through the regionals, but this year, we had to fight for everything, and I think that's what made it a lot more special."
Zachrich on the last four years: "Coach Hada has repeatedly told us to leave it all out on the field, and if we give it 100 percent, she would carry us off the field ... That just shows you what a real coach is."
Despite the graduation of the five seniors, Hada and the team will look to advance to their third-straight postseason in 2017. Five juniors -- Kyleah Brey, Randi Kelsey, Christine Bowling, Erin Chapman and Taylor Hicks -- are poised to step up into a more prominent role in team leadership.