ESCANABA - The Escanaba Senior League (age 15-16) girls pulled off some late inning heroics Tuesday night and raised the district championship trophy and banner proudly after edging Kingsford 2-1 in a tight battle.
After both teams were seeing smoke from ace pitching throughout a scoreless first five and a half innings, Escanaba hammered home a clutch victory thanks to the effort of its bench.
Erica Sommers hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh with the score tied 1-1 and Alyssa Polequin followed with a single. Sommers then scored from second base on a fielding error by Kingsford first baseman Molly Menneguzzo to end the game.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Escanaba’s Erica Sommers runs toward third base en route to scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh on an error at first base, Tuesday evening against Kingsford in a Senior League district championship game at Lemerand Field.
"It's amazing," said Sommers of the thrill of scoring off the bench. "I stopped on third base and then I just kind of watched and the ball was at the fence and the coach was screaming go! go! go! I was all like 'but I'm so slow!" and I just went, and it felt great."
It was a tough turn of events for Kingsford and Menneguzzo from the top of the inning. Kingsford entered the seventh with a 1-0 deficit, needing a run to prolong the game. With two outs, and Lorna Caron at second base, Menneguzzo came up to bat. She had two strikes when she hit a ball to centerfield to score Caron and tie the game.
"For Molly, it was just a great at bat," said Kingsford coach Kevin Murdock. "She's a girl that was on the high school team but didn't play very much and so far in this tournament for the first two games, I DH'ed for her. I texted her last night and let her know 'you're batting for yourself today.' and she sent me a text back saying 'I won't let you down coach."
Of the game ending error, Murdock said "That was a bad throw and it wasn't (Menneguzzo's) fault. She probably should have just held it at that point and left the bases loaded, but you can't blame them. They're trying to make plays."
Kingsford had another opportunity to score in the fourth inning with runners at second and third and no outs, but Esky starting pitcher Sam Connor was able to work out of the jam. She got Sadie Ventimiglia to fly out and Caron hit into a fielders choice with Becca Piron running down Tessa Merhalski on a pickle between third and home plate. Sierra Fayas then grounded out to first.
Connor said she didn't particularly enjoy the pressure situation, but knew what to do from experience.
"I guess I've just been in that position a lot," she said. "We had really good defense today. I think there were a couple of errors where shouldn't have been, but our defense played well and Jaymie pitched really well. It was a good all-around game."
Connor, who pitched four innings and Frappier who was on the mound for the final three, limited Kingsford to few real opportunities. Esky's aces allowed seven hits, no walks and struck out five.
"It was a pitchers' game today," said Esky coach Michelle Carne. "Both teams struggled to get hits and timely hits when they needed them, but we pulled it out and a win is a win. I'm very happy with the win and the district championship."
Equally impressive was Kingsford ace Emily Murdock who pitched the entire game. She stifled Escanaba for much of the game, allowing six hits, no walks with one hit batter and three strikeouts.
"She's a battler, said Murdock. "She had a rough game yesterday (15-14 over Norway) and to come back here tonight and pitch a great game like she did, that's just awesome. She's a tough kid."
Escanaba broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth. Mackenzie Leisner led off with a base single and another base hit and sac-bunt moved her to third, where she scored off Connor's sacrifice groundout.
"I told the girls from the beginning that we will win if we score first. That's what I preach, scoring first and playing good defense," said Carne. "Sam did good for us today and pitched out of a jam and Sam Sailer came up big for us too (with a nice run-saving grab in the bottom of the seventh)."
Escanaba now advances to the Senior League state tournament which will be held at Lemerand Park in Escanaba beginning this weekend. Escanaba is slated to play Saturday at 11 a.m. against an opponent to be announced.