Evart wins its quarterfinal softball game.

CADILLAC – The 300th win in Amanda Brown’s Evart softball coaching career will be an easy one to remember.

It came in the 3-1 Division 3 quarterfinal win (June 14) at Cadillac over Kalkaska, giving the Wildcats (31-5) their first trip to the state semifinal round.

Despite a shaky start, the Wildcat defense prevailed behind the steady pitching of Addy Gray, who struck out 12, walked zero and scattered five hits.

It was a disappointing end to the season for Kalkaska, a perennial northern Michigan power which was playing in its first state quarterfinal.

The Blazers ended the season at 27-13. Mia Miller took the pitching loss and is 19-6. She had 239 strikeouts coming in the game and was the team’s leading hitter at .430 followed by Jaycee Mitchell at .381.

“Senior leadership is the key to our success,” coach Rik Ponstein said coming into the game. “We are peaking at the right time. Pitching has been outstanding as we are playing solid ball.”

Ponstein said the  game was his last after 40 years of coaching.

Kalkaska started out on fire with a 1-0 lead in top of the first on Miller’s RBI double. It was an unearned run as defensive miscues frustrated the Wildcats early.

The Wildcats appeared to be in more trouble the top of the second when Kalkaska got its first two runners on. But Gray retired the side and it stayed 1-0.

Evart coach Amanda Brown stormed out of the dugout to talk with her defense when things were going shaky defensively.

“I asked them where we were at,” Brown said. “I reminded them we were here to make plays. We were not here to let the balls hit the ground for no reason. I told them it didn’t look like we had ever played softball a day in our life. We had to pull together, and we did.”

This led into a big inning in the bottom of the third for Evart  which scored all three of its runs in that frame. Gray walked and was tripled home by Katelyn Gostlin for a 1-1 tie. Ally Theunick’s RBI double made it 2-1 and Theunick scored the third run on an error.

This would be the end of the scoring although Kalkaska put runners on second and third with one out the top of the sixth on two straight Evart errors. But a pop out to second baseman Jojo Tiedt and a Gray strikeout shut the door on the Blazers. Gray retired the Kalkaska side in the top of the seventh to end the game.

“We had those two errors in the sixth inning but we shook them off and moved on,” Theunick said. “That was important.”

Gray in the pitcher’s circle “was very effective,” Brown said. “The defense stepped it up.”

“Definitely my fastball and cutterball were working,” Gray said.

The last time Evart appeared in a softball quarterfinal was in 1999 when Brown was a player.

“A lot of parents put a lot of effort and time in the girls,” Brown said. “These girls love to play ball. They love it and they enjoy it. A lot of them are on travel teams so they’re playing 24/7.”