Owosso advances to first-ever state championship game

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The crowd on hand, for the Division 2 state semifinal game between Owosso and Gaylord, was 15 months in the making. After attendance numbers have been limited, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium was standing room only on Thursday.

As for the results of the game, that was 38 years in the making for Owosso and coach JoEllen Smith. After claiming the program’s first-ever regional title on Saturday, the Trojans punched their ticket to their first-ever state championship game after taking down Gaylord 2-1.

Macy Irelan was on the mound for Owosso, as expected, and was able to rack up eight strikeouts, which includes the final out of the game.

“This group, right now, is a family. We are all so supportive of each other. We love each other,” Irelan said. “Karley(Kincaid) is my best friend, honestly, we have such a strong connection as a pitcher and catcher and I’m glad I was able to do this for her senior year.”

“Our team, they worked as a team and they just felt like a team,” Smith said. “She (Irelan) brought us this way, but the kids were hitting the ball, they played defense. It’s very exciting.”

Irelan was given her run support in the early stages of the game. After a wild pitch in the second inning allowed Jamie Maier to score the first run of the game, Owosso doubled its lead a few pitches later on an RBI single from Sydney Somers.

Gaylord struggled at the plate against Ireland. It took the Blue Devils until the fourth inning to record their first baserunner, a walk, and it wasn’t until the fifth inning when they reached the hit column, a bunt single. A big reason for Irelan’s success was the two early runs that helped settle her and the team down.

“We’re not really good at scoring early, we usually score later in the game, so that was huge,” Smith said. “They’re ready, they really are ready. We knew we had to come in with more confidence than them.”

In the seventh inning, Gaylord got a run, but it came at a cost. With runners at the corners and the winning run at the plate, the Blue Devils attempted to steal second base with one out. Owosso’s Kincaid threw out the runner headed for second base, while the runner on third scored to make it a 2-1 game with the bases empty.

That’s when Irelan recorded the final out, dropped to her knees, and celebrated with her teammates.

“Oh my goodness, it was crazy just to be able to celebrate with them,” Somers said. “They’re all amazing, and it’s just amazing to go through all this with all of them.”

“Although they follow me, they also lead me,” Irelan said. “My bat was quiet today, but they made up for it all the way.”

Another thing that stood out from Thursday’s game was the crowd. The stands were full of screaming fans, which made it difficult for the players to communicate with one another during the game. However, it was completely worth it for the Trojans.

“We got a police escort today. There were 200 people in the parking lot when we left today, signs everywhere,” Smith said. “I have not seen a crowd like this, and I have been here a lot of years.”

“I knew that no matter what they would support me, and they would have our back and they would always be loud,” Irelan said. “It fueled my energy and it fueled the way we were playing, and we just wanted to win for our town.”

Owosso will take on Marysville in the D2 state championship game on Saturday, at 10 a.m.

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