NOVI — When Madelin Skene’s bat met the ball, and it was obvious Hartland would celebrate a softball championship in the coming moments, it felt exactly how one would imagine.
“It felt like a dream coming off my bat,” Skene said. “I’ve always dreamt since I was a little girl of doing something like that for my teammates.”
Skene’s 14th home run of her senior year and the 36th of her four-year career was easily her most memorable. The two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning gave Hartland a 4-2 victory over South Lyon in a Division 1 regional championship game Sunday at Novi.
Hartland’s first regional championship since 1998 and third overall earned the Eagles (31-5) a shot at top-ranked Clarkston in the state quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Wayne State.
The ninth-ranked Eagles survived and advanced by battling back from 3-0 down in a 7-3 victory over fifth-ranked Walled Lake Northern in the regional semifinal and from two one-run deficits against South Lyon.
“That’s what our motto was: No one ever said it was going to be easy,” Skene said. “It’s going to be a grind.”
South Lyon took a 2-1 lead in the sixth on a home run by Janie Mitchell. Hartland tied it, 2-2, when Bri Robeson led off with a single and eventually scored from second when an error was committed on Clare Minsker’s bunt.
“We gave them some extra outs and they took advantage of it,” South Lyon coach Dan DePaulis said. “Great teams like that, you can’t give extra outs to.”
Freshman Rachel Everett retired the final seven South Lyon batters after Mitchell’s home run, putting Hartland in position to win it in the eighth. Again, Robeson began the rally with a lead-off single. She was on second base with one out when Skene ended the game with a blast over the fence in left-center field.
“There’s no time whatsoever that we felt we were going to lose this game,” Hartland coach Bob Greene said. “We just felt like it was a matter of time. But, you know, in games like this, sometimes time runs out. We felt a little pressure at the end, but going into that eighth inning, there was so much energy in that dugout. Everybody, top to bottom, all 17 players, said, ‘This is it; we’re winning it right now.’”
Freshman Kelsey Zampa had an active game in right field, making two diving catches and throwing out a runner at first base on a hard-hit ball. She was also unable to reach a ball hit down the line by Brittney Porter that turned into an inside-the-park home run, giving South Lyon a 1-0 lead in the second. Hartland tied it in the fourth on a single by freshman Delaney Robeson.
South Lyon (28-7) fell just short of the second regional championship in school history, the other coming in 1986. South Lyon pitcher Alexis Bonk allowed seven hits and no walks, striking out six.
“It was one of the most successful (seasons) in South Lyon history,” DePaulis said. “So, to get that close and not do it hurts a little bit, but I’m so proud of these girls and the way they played today.”
South Lyon had to play only once Sunday, having beaten North Farmington, 2-0, Saturday before rain postponed the rest of the tournament.
Hartland had to play a semifinal Sunday against a tough Walled Lake Northern team that took a 3-0 lead with three runs in the top of the third. Hartland came back with a five-run third before tacking on a run in the fifth.
It was the fourth regional championship this spring for Hartland. Both lacrosse teams and the golf team won regional titles. The Eagles have seven this school year, with girls basketball, hockey and wrestling capturing regionals in the winter.