GRAND RAPIDS — A regulation fastpitch softball game is supposed to go seven innings.
For all practical purposes, the Section 7A title game was over in one.
The Cherry High School softball team scored seven first-inning runs, then cruised to a 14-0, five-inning, 10-run rule victory over Barnum in the 7A championship game Thursday at the Grand Rapids Sports Complex.
It’s the Tigers first section title since 2016, and it was over before it began.
“That first inning we came out excited and ready to play,” senior Jessa Schroetter said. “We took energy from Tuesday when we 10-runned them and brought it here. We executed, which was exciting.”
It started with a Thea Besch single and a Hailey Greenly walk. They were sacrificed to second and third, then Schroetter was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Bailey Kowarsch followed with a two-run double and Cherry was off and running.
“That was huge because it brought our spirits up, and it shut them down,” Kowarsch said. “That’s what we needed to get it started.”
Faith Zganjar reached on an error to score a run, then Danielle Clement laid down a bunt, plating another tally.
Abby Rinerson reached on an error to score a run, then the last run scored when Greenly reached on an error.
The Bombers would never recover.
“That was big for us because a lot of times we’re a team that takes a couple of innings to warm up,” Schroetter said. “This time, we wanted to get going with it and get it done.”
From there, Cherry pitcher Lauren Staples did her job on the pitching rubber.
She gave up a double to Kaylea Poirier in the first, but that would be the lone hit the Tiger junior would allow.
She would strike out eight in five innings of work.
“It felt good to jump out ahead, to make a decision early that we’re going all-out for this,” Staples said. “It was surprising to score that many runs in a championship game, but we worked all year-round to make it happen.
“From there, I just had to hold them. I had to keep them under control as much as possible.”
Schroetter, who catches Staples, said her teammate was on her game.
“I wanted her to keep throwing like she usually does,” Schroetter said. “She executed well. She threw strikes when she needed to.”
It’s not as easy as it sounds, even with a seven-run lead.
“There’s parts of it that are easier, and parts that are harder,” Staples said. “It’s a balance that switches at the different points of the game.”
The Tigers got one run in the third as Staples laid down an RBI bunt, then Cherry exploded for six runs in the fourth.
Staples helped out her own cause with a two-run single. Kowarsch had an RBI base hit as well. One run scored on a wild pitch, and two scored on Barnum errors.
Never once did the Tigers let up during the game.
“We had to play out the game the same as we did in the first inning,” Kowarsch said. “You stay the same the whole time. It’s not over until it’s over. You never know what’s going to happen.
“We were excited, but we expected to come out here and play our game. However it turned out, it turned out. It turned out that way. That’s how we expected it to turn out. We have to stay composed because it’s not over yet.”
Kowarsch finished with two hits and three RBI. Zganjar also had two hits.
Mendota Castonaguay pitched four innings for the Bombers. She allowed nine hits, She struck out two and walked six.