ZEELAND, Mich. — Tuesday night's district opener between Hudsonville and Zeeland West was very highly anticipated.
The Eagles entered with a 30-3 overall record and champions of the OK Red division while the Dux were winners of 29 games and co-champions of the OK Green.
Hudsonville wouldn't get off to an ideal start early on, trailing 2-0 in the top of the third but they wouldn't give in.
"It was our resiliency," said head coach, Tom Vruggink.
Vruggink has well over 1,000 wins in his 40 seasons as Hudsonville softball coach and a big reason for that is the way he relies on senior leadership, including his nine on this season's roster.
"We had a couple of plays that they worked really well on us with bunts," he added about Zeeland West's gameplan.
The two-run deficit would be erased in the top of the third inning when the Eagles came to bat and hit three RBI doubles in the inning to help them plate six runs.
"The first few innings didn't go our way but if we wouldn't have stuck through, we wouldn't have gotten the win so we just had to push through and we knew we'd come alive eventually," added senior catcher, Kylee Wenzel.
Eight of the Eagles hitters in Tuesday's lineup would record hits helping them to the 6-4 victory in a total team effort.
"We don't have that major person that we can rely on that will get two, three, four hits in a game with 5 RBIs," Vruggink added, "our RBIs are scattered from one through nine through the lineup so we have different kids doing it every day."
And Wenzel knows that will make Hudsonville a tough out in the postseason.
"Yeah, one through nine we're pretty solid," she added, "as you can see, everyone gets hits when we need it."
Fellow senior Alyssa Braam was dealing in the circle for the Eagles on the big stage.
Braam would face some adversity including in the bottom of the sixth inning when the Dux had the tying run on second base, but she battled through with a strikeout and a groundout to get out of the inning.
In the seventh, Braam would finish off the complete game effort with 13 strikeouts.
"We never doubted her," said Vruggink, smiling, "even though we had a pitcher warming up, we knew that being our senior leader, she was going to take us home."
The Cornerstone University bound pitcher says there were some nerves early on.
"I mean I was nervous at first but when our bats started going I had no doubt that we were going to pull through."
Vruggink told his team after the win that sometimes win number one of the postseason is the toughest.
"This is my 40th year coaching varsity softball and when I said sometimes the first game is the toughest to win, I meant it."
The Eagles advance to face a familiar conference opponent in Jenison on Saturday, June 5 in the district semifinal which will be held at Grandville high school at 10:00 AM.
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