MADISON HEIGHTS — Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest softball coach Jeff Ludwig was all smiles.
His team, filled with mostly underclassmen, had just taken state power Allen Park Cabrini to the brink in a Division 3 regional final June 8 at Madison Heights Bishop Foley.
The Crusaders lost 6-1, but the game had been tied through five innings before the Monarchs scored one in the sixth and then four in the seventh.
“I think maybe they were a more experienced team and handled the pressure there at the end. We had them worried, but they fought through it, so kudos to Cabrini,” Ludwig said. “We’re a very young team, but we didn’t show it today.”
The Crusaders beat Detroit Henry Ford Academy 15-1 in five innings in the semifinals.
Northwest finishes the year 15-12 overall, but started the season 2-9, before winning 13 of their next 16 games, including the program’s second straight district championship.
“They refused to let (the slow start) get them down and just kept working, just kept working,” Ludwig said.
Northwest has just two seniors (Rachel Dober and Brianna Neumeyer), one junior and six underclassmen in the starting lineup.
“I feel so proud,” Neumeyer said. “To come back from (our slow start), then be district champions and be with (Cabrini) right up until the end, it’s an awesome feeling.”
Though Northwest is expected to return all but two starters next season, Ludwig said the duo will be missed.
“They’re the heart and soul of the team. Our goal every year is to send the seniors out on a good note. What we’ve done the last two weeks was surely for their benefit, and they played into that,” he said. “They laid the groundwork. We hope to keep moving forward with what they helped us accomplish.”
In other local softball news:
Lake Orion High fell in its Division 1 regional semifinal.
The Dragons lost to Hartland High 6-3 June 8 at Rochester High.
In Division 2, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep lost to St. Clair High 6-0 June 8 at Bloomfield Hills Andover.
The game was tied in the fourth inning before St. Clair scored two in the bottom half of the inning and then four more in the fifth.
Victoria Bayliss had two of the Fighting Irish’s three hits.