by Jeremy Benson, GrandRiverConference.com
Polo Panthers defeated North Andrew Cardinals 12-2 to win the GRC Softball Championship. It is Polo's second GRC title. They also won in 2014. Polo becomes the 5th school to win the GRC Championship in 5 years.
The Panthers got a one-out double from Chloe Gilbert in the first inning, but she was stranded. Hanna Vaught pitched the bottom of the inning and was one pitch from being perfect. She struck out the first two Cardinal hitters on 3 pitches each. It took her four pitches to strike out the third hitter, but she retired all three hitters on strikeouts on 10 pitches.
In the second inning, Kendyl Fitzwater led off the inning with a triple and scored when Haley Barnett struck out, but the catcher was unable to secure the pitch. North Andrew would get singles by Cassidy Brittain and Piper Cook in the bottom of the inning, but Vaught worked around them making the score 1-0 Polo after 2.
In the third inning, Jade Misel led off with a walk after working Katryna Warren to a 3-2 count. Kenley Moore then reached on an error. This opened the floodgates for Polo with their top hitter coming up in Gilbert. She knocked two in with her second double of the night. Hanna Vaught followed up with an RBI triple. Mya Heil then doubled to score Cierra Stigger, who was pinch running for Vaught. By the time the inning ended, Polo had scored 7 runs on 3 hits, 2 walks, a Hit by Pitch and 2 errors. Vaught allowed one hit to Michaela Sybert in the bottom of the third, but was able to retire the Cardinals. Polo led 8-0 after 3.
Polo added 3 more runs in the fourth inning. Moore and Gilbert both singled. Vaught knocked in Moore with a groundout, and then Heil recorded her second double to drive in Gilbert. Heil would score on a Wild Pitch to make it 11-0 Polo. Vaught would allow a couple of hits in the bottom of the 4th, but strike out the side. She once again kept the Cardinals off the board.
In the 5th, the Panthers were unable to score after Schmidt led off the inning with a single. Warren retired the next three. North Andrew was down to their last out, but got 3 straight singles from Sybert, Warren and Madison Curran to plate 2 runs extending the game another inning with the score 11-2 Polo after 5.
In the sixth inning, Polo would score a run after Heil singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. North Andrew was retired in order in the bottom of the 6th. The game ended with Polo winning 12-2.
I caught up with Polo coach Becky Ross after the game. You can hear postgame along with Coach Ross's interview here: