ESCANABA - It was a nailbiting finish to say the least Friday night as the Escanaba Eskymos pulled out a 7-6 softball triumph over the Alpena Wildcats in the second game of the doubleheader.
The victory enabled Esky to salvage a split after dropping the opener 8-3.
In the nightcap, the Eskymos loaded the bases after the first two hitters were retired in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jaymie Frappier was then hit by a pitch to force in the game-winner.
Holly Richer | Daily Press
Escanaba center fielder Ashley Cook jumps to catch a hit by Alpena’s Kara Gehrke for the out during the fourth inning at Lemerand Field Friday.
Holly Richer | Daily Press
Jaymie Frappier of Escanaba works against Alpena during the third inning of the first game of a doubleheader at Lemerand Field Friday.
Sophomore shortstop Callie Heller, who scored the winning run, got the Eskymos back on track with a single to leftfield. Sydney Gafner then singled to left and junior catcher Becca Piron drew a walk to leave the bases loaded for Frappier.
"You can't predict anything in the game of softball," said Piron. "Jaymie pitched real well. But they (Alpena) are a good hitting team and they found the holes. We had to make the plays we needed to make. In the bottom of the seventh, we just had to play as if it were 0-0."
Frappier, who pitched the entier contest and took the win, appeared to be in rhythm as she retired the Wildcats in order in the three previous innings.
Alpena then opened its half of the seventh with six straight hits and tied the contest on Jenna VanDusen's two-run single to center, its seventh hit of the inning.
"It was very nerve-wracking," said Esky senior Jenn Koish. "We kind of started falling apart and they were hitting right into the gaps. Once you get into that situation, it doesn't matter how many outs there are. You just focus on the play of the moment. Callie's single got our enthusiam and confidence back up."
Despite Alpena's uprising, there was no panic in the Esky dugout heading into the bottom of the seventh.
"We just told the girls to 'do what you do,'" said Esky manager John LaMarch. "We told them to keep battling and they were rewarded."
The Eskymos scored twice in the fourth to gain their five-run advantage. Piron's single to center drove in Esky's fifth run and a bases-loaded walk to freshman first-baseman Katie Ross made it 6-1.
Esky then maintained that cushion until the seventh.
"We're proud of the kids for battling back and their never-say-die attitude," said Alpena manager Paul Marwede. "The kids really grew up in this doubleheader. I think they will remember this day as the day they grew mentally. We love playing Escanaba. They always treat us well when we come up here, and we have much respect for their program."
Gafner opened the scoring on a fielder's choice in the opening frame of Game 2. Ross then clubbed a two-run homer to right for a 3-0 cushion and MacKenzie Leisner added the fourth run on a fielding error.
"After the first game, we got that break and knew we had to change our midset," said Koish. "We wanted to jump on them early, and I think this game gave us some confidence."
Mary Schimmel scored Alpena's first run on a fielder's choice in the third.
The Eskymos (5-2) collected 12 hits, with Gafner and Heller leading the way with three each. Piron finished with two.
"Katie made real good plays at first," said Piron. "She scooped up the ball perfectly. She's a real asset to the team. I think this gets us ready for other hard-hitting teams and making plays and choices on the field. We also appreciate the efforts of Mr. Wilson (athletic director Dave) who worked hard to make everything happen."
Frappier recorded seven strikeouts, an intention walk to load the bases in the seventh and allowed nine hits.
Kara Gehrke, who also went the distance, took the loss. She fanned two, walked two and hit a batter.
VanDusen and Schimmel had two hits apiece for the Wildcats (6-2), who returned to Lemerand Park at 10 this morning to face Marquette in a twinbill.
In the opener, Alpena snapped a 1-1 deadlock by scoring five times in the fifth, taking advantage of three errors, two walks and a two-run single to right-center by Kelsey Udall.
The Wildcats opened the scoring on Alex Peters' double to right-center, but Esky tied the count on Frappier's single to right-center in the third.
Frappier finished with two hits, including a leadoff solo homer to right-center in the seventh.
Peters also had a pair of hits for the Wildcats, who finished with seven.
Lauren Heath went the distance for the victory. She struck out eight, walked five and allowed six hits.
Frappier absorbed the loss. She whiffed four, walked none and surrendered six runs on five hits through 4 2/3 innings.
The Eskymos are entered in today's Ashwaubenon, Wis. Invitational tournament, facing the host Jaguars in the opener at 11 a.m. (EDT).