Trenton softball knocks down center line; advances to state semifinals with PHOTO GALLERY – The News Herald

Fresh off their first regional title since 2005, Trenton hosted a Division 2 state quarterfinal on Tuesday afternoon against Area Conference foe Macomb Center Line.

Center Line at Trenton State Quarterfinals Softball Photo Gallery

The Trojans proved to be a bit too much for Center Line to handle and took a 12-1 Mercy victory in six sets. With the victory, Trenton clinched a berth in the state semifinals and advanced to face Essexville Garber on Thursday at Michigan State University.

The Trojans (32-10) have now won eight straight games and over that streak have outscored the opposition 84-16. Tuesday’s result was the fifth of those eight wins in which the team made double-digit runs.

It’s no surprise for Trenton coach Rich Tanguay, as his team is averaging eight points per game this spring.

“It’s a team that hits well, they love hitting the ball,” said Tanguay. “We lost the draw and we always say, ‘the only thing we’re going to lose is the draw.’ But our girls came out on fire and hit the ball hard today.”

Visitors on the scoreboard Tuesday, Trenton made a statement early with three points leading the first, including a solo home run from Olivia Hickman. After tackling one more in the second, the Trojans really opened things up with four runs in the third.

The hosts have scored at least once in five of the six innings. After Center Line (18-15) scratched their only run of the game in the fourth, Trenton went to put two in each of the fifth and sixth frames to put the game within reach via the run rule.

Alex Muller – For MediaNews Group

Center Line’s Raina Velazquez swings on a pitch Tuesday during a quarterfinal matchup with host Trenton. The Panthers capped off their strong season with a 12-1 loss to the Trojans. (Alex Muller – For MediaNews Group)

Panthers coach Dennie Limberger explained how nerves may have gotten the better of his team, ultimately putting them behind the 8-ball early.

“I just don’t think we were ready to launch it,” Limberger said. “We played and played against good teams all season, but I think with a bigger stage, a bigger stage, the girls were just more nervous.

“It was nothing we hadn’t seen before,” added Limberger. “It’s just that (Trenton starter Aila Johnson) was throwing more shots than we’re used to, I think.”

Host Trenton's Aila Johnson prepares to throw a pitch during Tuesday's quarterfinal game with Center Line.  A dominating performance from Johnson helped guide the Trojans to a 12-1 win and a berth in the state semifinals.  (Alex Muller - For MediaNews Group)

Alex Muller – For MediaNews Group

Host Trenton’s Aila Johnson prepares to throw a pitch during Tuesday’s quarterfinal game with Center Line. A dominating performance from Johnson helped guide the Trojans to a 12-1 win and a berth in the state semifinals. (Alex Muller – For MediaNews Group)

Trenton as a team finished with 12 hits. The top third of the order – Annika Segedi, Gracie Rickman and London Williams – combined to go 7 for 9 with eight RBIs. Segedi reached base safely in all five of his trips to home plate, scoring each time as well. All three of Williams’ hits were doubles; she alone drove in four races.

Aila Johnson did the rest in the circle of the Trojans. Johnson in six innings allowed just two base runners — one hit and one walk — while striking out 12 Panthers batters.

Center Line’s only run came in the fourth inning on a two-out RBI single by Alyson Allport. It marked Marissa Harenski, the runner courtesy of pitcher Allison Woolsey, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.

Center Line's Alyson Allport bats during Tuesday's state quarterfinal game against host Trenton.  The Panthers came up against a tough Trojan team and saw their strong season end in a 12-1 loss.  (Alex Muller - For MediaNews Group)

Alex Muller – For MediaNews Group

Center Line’s Alyson Allport bats during Tuesday’s state quarterfinal game against host Trenton. The Panthers came up against a tough Trojan team and saw their strong season end in a 12-1 loss. (Alex Muller – For MediaNews Group)

Woolsey threw 5.2 relief innings for the Panthers, scattering 11 hits and four walks. Two of the nine runs she was charged with were undeserved. She came to pitch the first inning after Savannah Kutch pitched to the first six batters of the game, recording just one out.

Center Line has largely coasted with district and regional titles over the past two weekends, winning by a combined score of 72-4 and seeing none of the games go beyond the fourth inning.

Center Line finished the season with an 18-15 record overall and their first quarterfinal appearance since 2015.

Limberger said a number of key contributors to the team this season didn’t get much playing time a year ago.

“I’m so proud,” he said. “I have four daughters who never played a game last year. I always thought this year was going to be the year of rebuilding. It was a good year because we showed them where we could go as a team.

“I expect to be here again next year,” added Limberger. “But I also expect to be a lot more competitive.”

As for Trenton, they are back in the bottom four in softball for the first time in 17 years (16 seasons).

The Trojans are one of two Downriver League teams to travel to East Lansing this weekend, the other being reigning D1 runners-up Allen Park, who beat Farmington Hills Mercy 11-3 in the their quarter-final match on Tuesday.

“I’m very excited for this team and this group of girls,” said Tanguay. “There’s a lot of love in this dugout. They’re fun and loose and we’re going to keep it that way.”

Playing time for Trenton’s semifinal game on Thursday is 3 p.m. at MSU’s Secchia Stadium in East Lansing. The Trojans will face Essexville Garber, who shut out Detroit Country Day 8-0 in the opposing D2 quarter-final on Tuesday.