Meridian Mustangs Jack Hammer Harrison
By Cody O’Rourke
The Meridian Mash Machine has been producing runs in way that would make old Henry Ford turn in his grave. The triple-headed dragon-beast of Taylor Smith, Blake Garner, and Kristen Goodall have mauled the opposition’s pitchers to manufacture 22 homeruns already this season. Taylor Smith has been leading the slug factory, setting a new season record for the Sandford Sidewinders with 11 long bombs already this season, breaking the hold mark of 6 set by Brenda Hockemeyer (79, 80) and Aubrey King (11). Garner, only a sophomore, has been an absolute bruiser herself by slam-wrecking in 6, while Goodall has hammered in 5.
This past week, the Mustangs have been in an absolute dance party, starting from winning their home tournament, to beginning their romp through the JPC with convincing victories over the Harrison Hornets and the Houghton Lake Bobcats in preparation for next week’s ridged schedule of Clare and Beaverton.
Jamie Smith hosted a party off the Shores of Sanford Lake a couple of Saturday’s ago and force feed her company plates full of pain and misery, dumping on Saginaw Lutheran Seminary 17-0, as the Mustangs combined for 3 homeruns with Goodall stroking one in the 4th then Smith adding two more. The Edenville Explorers than turned around and pounced on Morely Standwood 10-3.Taylor Smith hit one off the scoreboard in electric form to set her team into the championship match-up.
The Mustangs snatched the trophy from the Reese Rockets 4-3 in championship to set the tone for JPC play.
The Mustangs were able to strike first against the Rockets with the grizzled Beth Stroup cutting through the leather of the pitcher to get on base safely, churning up a cloud of dust on her way to first. With Stroup drooling with a maddening glare, her partner in crime, Blake Garner yoke on a meatball to hammer the egg over the fence and give the Meridian mash squad a 2-0 lead.
Jamie Smith’s girls widened the gap in the bottom of three when fleet footed Yaroch laid down a bunt like an old throw-rug and sprinted to first to set up shop. Next time the fans looked up, Yaroch was loading her springs at third eyeballing home. Howe came up clutch with a clean punch into a little open nook in the outfield to make it 3-0.
The Rockets flurried back in the 4th to tie it up 3-3.
Late in the game, it was the combo package of Cordero and Stockford working in conjunction to push the Mustangs into the lead. Cordero tore a single and was advanced around the bases with a Yaroch bunt. Stockford made the day with a slice across the grain to send Phoebe jaunting home to make it 4-3.
The Mustangs defense came up clutch with some heads-up playing.
Reeves put a runner on first on a walk, but maintained poised and controlled, continued to hurl strikes and Stockford made a nice play in the outfield for the first out. Then Taylor Smith scooped up a grounder and fired to first for the second out, but the runner had advanced to third.
Reese tried the suicide squeeze, but the Stroup wasn’t going to get played. She quickly pounced on the ball and ran down the runner back to third, tossed the ball back to Garner who was alert and and Garner and Stroup pinched her down to retain and hoist the title.
Lifting the gold set the tone for the week, as the Mustangs rolled into Budd Lake and chalked up a double-mercy, 10-0 and 14-3, leaving the Hornets with only an outside chance of taking a piece of the title – in the event that they win out and Meridian stumbles against the likes Clare, Beaverton, or Farwell – which at this point looks very unlikely.
The girls in powder blue wasted no time at getting things going, as Taylor Goodall splashed a longball at her first at bat in the top of the first to make it a 1-0 game, then Taylor Smith turned right back around and ripped a double to put herself in scoring position. With Smith licking her chops and perched up on second, Meridian’s rugged little catcher Beth Stroup sent her chugging home to make it a 2-0 game.
Melissa Reeves toed the rubber in the opener for the Smith regime. Harrison snazzy sure handed second baseman Mary Devine was able to find a gap and poke in the ball to spark the Leota natives. But the Mustangs’ defense tightened up. Reeves fielded Haley Sulla’s ground and whipped a zinger to Goodall at first for the put out. Then Goodall anticipated the short drop, sprung up the line and caught Hillary Brewer’s floater and immediately snapped the ball over to Smith at secondbase to turn the double play and send the Sanford ballers back up to the plate with their sticks in hand.
But the Mustangs couldn’t get anything going. Sulla made a nice play from short to hose down Madi Cassiday for the first out. Phoebe Cordero rang a single to deep right and stole second. Bri Yaroch advanced her to third with short bunt, but Allison Lipovsky was able to snatch up the moneyball and get the speedy Yaroch out at first. Lipovsky and the Hornets would get out of the inning without a run as Hannah Stockford would try to give Cordero the wiggle room to make it home, but a quick toss back to home plate to the numbers of the board and the Mustangs leave the inning in neutral.
Reeves started off the bottom of the second fielding a Taylor Bondie crack and relaying the rock to Goodall at first.
Looking to make a move, Harrison Lipovsky sent one sailing over centerfield herself to bring Dodge City into an absolute fury and give the Hornets a fighting chance. The Harrison ballers had their chances to score, as Cullen and Duggan both got on, but were left stranded.
Smith blasted her first of what would turn out to be a 4 homerun night to make it 5-1. Ali Howe stalled on the pitches and walked onto base, Goodall dropped the big ball in center to get on base and set the table for Smith. Smith chomped down and cleared center field by 20 feet.
Lipovsky readjusted and recomposed, Coach Cooper’s interior defense wrangled up some grounders with Sulla and Devine making some plays in the middle to end the inning and carried that momentum into the bottom of the third to tally a couple of more runs.
Devine took the base on balls, but was gunned down at second as Sulla got on first with a fielder’s choice. It didn’t look like much was going to happen as Reeves tossed out Brewer at first to for the second out. But Bondie managed to rope a single by lighting into a tough inside ball. With two on, Lipovsky again ripped the ball to drive in Sulla and make it a 5-2 game and put Bondie on 3rd. Brandi Powell snuck onto base for Lipovsky and flashed like she was going to steal and the Mustangs took the bait to allow Bondie to come skirting home to make it a 5-3 game.
The Mustangs were able to take firm control of the game in the top of the 5th when Taylor Smith rocked her second homerun of the game to make it 6-3. Garner stroked a single, worked her way to second and then onto third and blitzed home on a wild pitch to make it a 7-3 game.
Phoebe Cordero rocked a double, then Yaroch added in a RBI and next thing it was a 9-3 game.
Reeves spun through Devine, Sulla, and Brewer to end the inning.
In the top of the 6th, it was Howe that got the ball bouncing with a long fly ball to right, adding an additional runner for Goodall who decided she wanted to go yard and make it a 11-3 game. Taylor Smith kept carousal going, sliding a quarter in the slot and lacing a double. She didn’t stay on second long, as Stroup’s pony tail almost came undone with a liner to left. Then Garner doubled, then Phoebe jolted the Hornets with a double-whammy to make it 14-3 for the RBI and put the mercy rule into full effect.
Lipovsky paced the Hornets with a single, a homerun, 2 RBI’s and scored a run. Bondie, Devine and Duggan (2B) all had hits.
But it was the Mustang’s hot batting of Smith, Goodall, and Cordero that gave the Meridian girls the fire power. Smith went 4-4 with 2 doubles, 2 homeruns, 4 RBI’s. Goodall went 3-4 with a single and 2 homeruns to tally 3 RBI’s and Phoebe Cordero has really been steady with the stick, bashing in 4 singles.
The night cap was little different, as Coach Jamie Smith watched her girls continue to flatten the ball into the outfield.
Stockford led off the bottom of the 1st with a single, then Howe rings in Stockford, Goodall splattered a triple then Smith turned the corner and recorded her 3rd home run on the night to make it a 3-0 Meridian lead.
The Mustangs flung up some more runs in the bottom of the second as Morgan Cassiday rolled out and connected for a single, then Stroup dotted the greenery to get on base. Stockford went from bunting mode to swinging gear and unloaded a triple to make it 5-0.
Fast forward to the bottom of the third, and Smith leads off the inning with her 4th bomb of the night to make it 6-0. That was Smith’s 11th of the season so far. Stroup followed suite and sprinkled in a single to put a runner on for Garner who has been an absolute monster at the plate this year. On the 3-2 pitch, Garner floated a high arcing skyball over center to make it an 8-0 Meridian lead. Then Morgan Cassiday put wood to bat to get on, her sister Madi gnashed the ball, but couldn’t cut through the infield all the way and Lipovsky turned and gunned down the lead runner. But Madi wasted no time reloading second base and spurted into scoring position. Then Yaroch singled to put on another batter for the Howe. Howe, who has really came on strong this year, deployed the mercy rule by ringing up a 2 RBI single to make it a 10-0 game.
Madi Cassiday did her work on the mound to get through the 5th unscathed and finished with the shutout.
Stockford finished with a single and a triple and 2 RBI’s. Goodall added a single and a triple, while Smith smashed in 2 more homeruns in the night cap to collect 3 more RBI’s on the night. Madi Cassiday added a single and a double.
“It was a good hitting night for us,” said Jamie Smith. “Allison Lipovsky is a good pitcher, there is no doubt about that. She is only a freshman and she has the potential to be really good. Our girls have played a lot of strong competition this year and we are really getting going right now.”
After Harrison, the Mustangs blitzed through the Bobcats to the tune of 7-0 and 13-0. Smith finished with a single and a double, while Garner recorded a single and a triple in the victory. Reeves was the winning pitcher with 7 K’s and 1 walk, giving up 4 hits total. The Bobcats Pakizer, Julin, Pappas, and Sherwood all made contact, but the Prudenville regime couldn’t sustain the offensive assualt.
In the night cap, the Meridian crew was led by the ultra athletic Bri Yaroch with 3 singles and 3 stolen bases. Goodall had a double.
“I am happy with the way we’ve been playing and if we keep playing this way and hitting the ball and tighten up on our defense, we are going to be tough come district time,” said Jamie Smith.