SOUTH BEND, Ind. - After an opening day loss at the Central Regional tournament in South Bend, Escanaba Senior Girls' Little League (age 15-16) All-Stars' manager Michelle Carne said the teams would face again in the championship.
Three convincing wins later, Esky proved Carne's prediction correct, as they clawed their way into the championship game where they got another shot at South Bend.
"Just from watching the other teams I knew that if we played our game every single day and we came out with the enthusiasm we had and got our bats going and our pitchers threw good; I knew that we were probably the two best teams here and it ended up being that way," Carne said.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Carne
Escanaba third baseman Callie Heller forces out a South Bend baserunner during Wednesday’s Senior League Central Regional Championship game in?South?Bend. South?Bend won the Central title with a 9-4 victory.
Esky outscored their next three opponents by a combined score of 30-3, including a 10-0 win earlier Wednesday against Illinois to advance to the championship.
Unfortunately they were unable to overcome a six run fourth inning from South Bend, as they fell 9-4.
"Walking onto that field today there was such a range of emotions," Carne said. "The girls were excited to go, they wanted to get to Delaware. They knew we could do it, they just had to play a pretty flawless game on defense. We made some costly errors here and there, that ultimately if you look back on it, cost us the game."
Esky got on the board first as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Starting pitcher Jaymie Frappier slapped a single, followed by a single from Sam Connor. Jessica Gill hit a one-run single to score Frappier. Both Connor and Gill came around to score in the inning.
By the fourth inning, South Bend had tied the game at 3-3. With two outs and the bases loaded, the South Bend batter hit a high pop-up in the infield. Esky third baseman Sam Sailer was in fair territory and in position for the catch but dropped it after what appeared to be a collision with the South Bend runner.
"I thought she got bumped by the runner coming in from third, the umpires said that they didn't see anything," Carne said. "Sometimes the calls go your way and sometimes they don't and in that case it didn't go our way and we had to move on from it."
Instead of heading into the fifth tied 3-3, South Bend piled on five more runs to open their lead up to 8-3.
In the fifth inning, Mackenzie Leisner blasted a two-out solo home run over the left field wall to cut the South Bend lead to 8-4, but Esky wasn't able to score in the final two frames.
In the first game of the day, Esky pitchers Frappier and Connor combined to keep Illinois hitless. Only three Illinois batters managed to reach base; two from walks and a third from a throwing error.
Esky scored in every inning they batted in besides the fifth, collecting 12 hits and 10 run-ruling Illinois by the sixth inning.
"It was good, that team was supposed to be tough but we pulled it through better than they did," Leisner said. "We got our bats going so that helped a lot."
Carne said it meant a lot to her team to represent the state of Michigan and she expects to be back next year.
"We come with it all, we have great players, they know how to respect the game," Carne said. "Our fans traveling with us, we had big support. We knew we were the underdogs coming in but we had support from the rest of the teams that had gotten out of it. They really wanted us to pull through here and we had the team to do it, we just fell a little bit short."
South Bend moves on to Delaware where they will play in the Senior League Softball World Series August 4-10.