Renaissance High held off Cass Tech to win 4-3 and earned its seventh consecutive Detroit Public School League softball championship before a well-entertained crowd Friday at the University of Detroit Mercy’s Buysse Ballpark.
Senior first baseman Cassandra Nelson’s two-run home run over the left field fence in the third inning tied the game 2-2 and ignited coach Garrard Taylor’s Phoenix (17-5) toward their 12th PSL title in 14 years.
“All of my seniors haven’t lost a (PSL) game in their four years,” Taylor said. “They have experience in winning championships. It’s a tradition. We play in the city, outside of the city, we play in tournaments, we work hard and it pays off.”
In the fourth inning, Renaissance took the lead for good when Ariel Johnson reached base on an error, stole second and scored on a wild pitch. Kenya Mallett’s two-out RBI single gave Renaissance a 4-2 lead.
Junior Kayla Banks allowed just four hits and struck out seven as the winning pitcher, but she had to overcome a rocky first inning as two walks and a wild pitch led to Coach Julie Schneider’s Technicians (11-9) taking a 2-0 lead. Cass Tech pitcher Taylor Thomas’ RBI single opened the scoring and Arleen Bailey came home from third on a throwing error.
“We wanted to come out aggressive and just leave it all on the field,” Schneider said. “We had a couple of errors and that ended up hurting us in the end.”
Cass, which lost last year’s title game 4-1 to the Phoenix, made a last-ditch rally in the seventh when Asia McGee singled and advanced to third on consecutive wild pitches. Sunasia Echols’s RBI groundout cut the lead to 4-3, but Banks then got Ilese Louya to ground out to third for the final out.
“I just felt like I had to get past it,” Banks said of her recovery from the shaky first inning. “We never gave up. My team had my back and I couldn’t have done it without them.”