Miller’s home run lifts Wildcats to win in state quarterfinal
It’s been a year since the Wayland softball team suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 setback in 10 innings to Livonia Ladywood in a Division 2 state semifinal contest.
Yet the memory remains vivid in the mind of Wildcat senior second baseman C.J. Miller.
“Whenever I think about that game, I get really sad,” Miller said. “I can’t even describe it. It’s just the worst feeling. And that’s what’s really motivated me this year. It’s motivated me to do well and help the team any way I can and it’s motivated me to keep my teammates focused and ready to play.”
Miller did her part to make sure the Wildcats would have a chance at redemption in the Final Four.
With Wayland’s state quarterfinal against St. Joseph on Tuesday, June 9, locked in a scoreless tie, Miller connected for a towering two-run homer to left field. Those proved to be the game’s only runs as the Wildcats posted the 2-0 victory.
Wayland pitcher Mallory Teunissen retired the Bears in order in the bottom of the seventh—including a pair of strikeouts to begin the frame—to seal the win.
“This is so amazing,” said Miller, who will play in a state semifinal at Michigan State University on Thursday, June 11, at 12:30 p.m. “I’m just super excited to have the chance to go back to the semifinals. This team can go great things when we keep believing in each other and have confidence in each other.”
Wayland coach Cheri Ritz certainly had confidence in Miller.
“I just had a feeling she was going to do something special when she went up to hit,” Ritz said. “She’s one of our senior leaders and she’s our number-three hitter and there’s a reason for that. Number-three hitters tend to come up big in the big moments, and that’s exactly what C.J. did.”
The trip to the semifinals is the fifth for Wayland since 2005. And in some people’s minds, it may have been the most improbable.
“A lot of people were doubting us heading into the season,” said Ritz, whose team upped its record to 34-2. “We lost a lot of good players (to graduation), and people were wondering how we were going to replace (shortstop) Sierra (Mutschler) or (center fielder) Sam (Merren) or (catcher) Britt (McLain).
“But I believed in these girls from day one and I got right to work figuring out how to best use the players we did have instead of worrying about the ones we were losing. And these girls have been great all season.”
For full story, pick up a copy of the June 11 issue of The Allegan County News or subscribe to the e-edition.