By DOUG DONNELLY
BATTLE CREEK – Bridgman was down to its final out Tuesday but launched a comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning to hand the Whiteford Bobcats a 7-4 loss in the Division 4 quarterfinals at Battle Creek’s Bailey Park.
The Bobcats finish a tremendous season 32-5. Bridgman improved to 39-2 and advanced to the semifinals at Michigan State University Friday.
The game ended when Bridgman’s Natalee McNeil launched an opposite field home run with two outs and two runners on in the seventh. Bridgman was down to its final out when they got a walk and took advantage of an error to tie the game, then won it on the home run, the second of the game for the Bees.
Bridgman’s comeback was necessary because Whiteford had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh inning when Aly VanBrandt hit an opposite field triple over the head of the Bridgman leftfielder with two outs.
Whiteford came from behind for much of the game before taking the lead for good in the seventh. Unity Nelson struck out 14 for the Bobcats and allowed only two hits.
After a rough fifth inning, Nelson retired the side on strikes in the sixth and got the first two Bees in the seventh to go down swinging.
Whiteford fell behind in the first inning when Bridgman’s power hitting No. 2 batter, Kaylee Shuler, cranked her 14th homer of the season on a 2-2 pitch from Nelson.
Whiteford tied the game in the third inning when Anna VanBrandt singled, reached third on a double by Aly VanBrandt and scored on a passed ball. In the third, the Bobcats went up 2-1 on a Berlynn Keller home run over the centerfield wall.
Bridgman, however, scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to go up 3-2 after loading the bases and getting two sacrifice fly outs.
Whiteford came within a win of tying the school record for victories in a season and captured league, district and regional trophies with a team of just one senior.