Escanaba seniors reflect on a stellar career

Mike Mattson | Daily Press Escanaba courtesy runner Cassie Wisler, left, congratulates Taylor Segorski after her base hit in the sixth inning.

EAST LANSING – For one year, Escanaba softball players wanted a rematch against Richmond in the Division 2 state tournament.

The Blue Devils defeated Esky 6-2 in last year’s semifinals and the Eskymos – especially the seniors – wanted a chance to avenge that loss. So it set up perfectly when Esky and Richmond met again Thursday morning at beautiful Secchia Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.

But one bad inning hurt the Eskymos, who gave up four runs in the third and fell 4-2 to the defending state champions.

For six Esky seniors – Emily Bruntjens, Katie Ross, Aubree Saunders, Jerikka McAlpine, Malary Hiney and Taylor Segorski, it meant the end of a stellar career wearing the Orange and Black.

And it hurt.

Mike Mattson | Daily Press Escanaba’s Emily Bruntjens gets ready to advance from second base in the fifth inning.

“Just like last year, we came up short,” third baseman Saunders said. “We were comfortable with what we knew. We knew who they were. We knew what we were expecting. We were working as a team, but regardless of what happened, I’m proud of this team. All six of us (seniors) came a long way.”

For the record, these seniors raised the bar to a new level for Escanaba softball. They helped the Eskymos to an amazing 100-14 record over the past three seasons.

“This group of girls has been together for years and years and years,” Taylor Segorski said. “We are one of the most successful classes to come through Escanaba. We accomplished a lot. We haven’t fallen short on the wins. We reached our 100th win and that’s huge.”

These seniors wish they could have notched wins 101 and 102.

They helped Esky to two straight Final Four appearances.

Mike Mattson | Daily Press Katie Ross delivers a pitch in Thursday’s Division 2 state semifinal game against Richmond.

They earned top-five rankings in the state.

And they gained the full respect of the softball powers like Richmond in Division 2.

“We really wanted to take this game, but they are a good team,” Ross said.

“I’m really proud of everybody. To make it this far, it really says something. Out of all the teams in Division 2, we’re in the Final Four and it’s a great feeling.”

Esky managed four hits off Richmond sophomore ace pitcher Erin Shuboy, who showed chinks in her armor but didn’t allow more than two runs.

Delta County is a true hotbed for high school softball in the state. Gladstone and Escanaba have played with the best for many years.

Overall, Escanaba has made four trips to the Final Four and finished state runner-up in 2003.

Gladstone has made 11 trips to the Final Four, with three state titles and one runner-up finish. The Braves lost to Napoleon Friday 16-0 and will not return to the state final.

Escanaba coach Jamie Segorski said it’s not a time for Escanaba softball to step back now after his seniors blazed an historic trail.

“It’s alive and kicking, Escanaba softball,” Segorski said after Thursday’s setback. “Were excited. We have another great group of girls coming up. It hurts a lot to lose this group of seniors.

“We’re top four with 156 teams in Division 2 softball in the state of Michigan and we’re in the last four and that’s a pretty great accomplishment.”

The six seniors are passing torch now. They’ve paid their dues, set the work ethic and moved the bar forward.

Ross thinks the Eskymos will soon reach the top of the mountain.

“The stars have to align,” she said. “It has to be on our side. There are a lot of good players coming up. This is a really good program. I think someday we’ll (win the state title).”