ESCANABA - It's on to Lower Michigan next week for the Gladstone Minor Girls' Little League All-Stars (age 9-10) as they gained the District 10 softball title Wednesday night with a 15-5 triumph in four innings over Escanaba.
The victory sends Gladstone to the state tournament at Pinery Park, where it begins play July 27.
This game was in contrast to Gladstone's 1-0 victory on Tuesday, a contest in which neither team recorded a hit.
Photo courtesy of Mike Dagenais
The Gladstone Minor (age 9-10) Girls Little League team celebreates after winning the District 10 title with a 15-5 victory over Escanaba Wednesday at Lemerand Field in Escanaba
Gladstone ended its string of seven hitless innings Wednesday by scoring five times on four hits in the second inning to gain a 7-0 advantage.
Taelor Zeise, who opened Gladstone's second with an infield single, scored on an error for a 3-0 lead. Winning pitcher Andie Belanger made it 4-0 with a single to leftfield. Brittany Schwartz's triple to left raised the count to 5-0 and Taylor Trudeau's two-run single to right made it 7-0.
"It seems like when one kid hits, the girls gain confidence and the others start hitting," said Gladstone manager Rodney Schwartz. "The second inning was big for us. But we stress to the kids it's never over until you shake the other kid's hand."
Gladstone, taking advantage of three walks and an error, added two runs in the third for a seemingly comfortable 9-0 advantage.
In the fourth, however, Esky did all its scoring by taking advantage of three errors, a walk and a hit batter to pull within 9-5.
Gladstone then secured the district title by scoring six times in its half of the inning, cashing in on five walks, including three straight with the bases loaded, and an error.
"Escanaba definitely came on strong," said manager Schwartz. "We're glad we got it over when when it did because you never know what might have happened in the next two innings."
Gladstone, taking advantage of three walks and an error, opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the first.
"We started real flat," said Esky manager Gary Salo. "We made a little comeback and made it interesting. But then we needed a clean inning and couldn't get it. We couldn't find the strike zone."
Esky used three pitchers, who combined to allow 12 walks and seven hits. Jalin Olson worked the first two innings and absorbed the loss.
Belanger tossed a three-hitter, struck out five, walked three and hit a batter.
Zeise and Trudeau had two hits each for Gladstone, which finished with three errors.
Esky had five miscues.
"Last night (Tuesday), we made every defensive play we needed," said Salo. "Tonight, our defense let us down a little. Everytime we made a mistake, they made us pay."
Esky's string of seven hitless innings ended with Brooke Bink's single to right in the second and Georgia Lehto ripped a two-run double to right in the fifth.