Esky has the grit and determination to win

Austin Hemmingson | Daily Press Escanaba’s Nicole Kamin shares a hug with teammate Lexi Chaillier (12) after her game winning two-run homer during the sixth inning of Thursday’s Division 2 state semifinal against North Branch at Michigan State University.

EAST LANSING — Most championship teams have a couple of things in common: they’re resilient, and they usually have a championship defining moment — often coming from an unexpected source. The Escanaba softball team isn’t a champion this season just yet, but Thursday it showed the championship grit required to win a state title.

Nicole Kamin’s two-run home run in the sixth inning to propel Esky to a 2-1 win over North Branch in the Division 2 state semifinals at Michigan State University was a perfect example of showing resiliency and having a championship defining moment.

Things weren’t looking great for the defending state champion Eskymos when Kamin stepped to the plate. Controversy surrounded the inning in the previous at-bat when Carsyn Segorski was called out for baserunner interference after escaping a pickle between second and third base and diving back into second safely. The umpires initially ruled her safe, then got together and changed the call. The Eskymos went from having runners on first and second with one out to having just one runner on first base with two outs.

Kamin wasn’t fazed. Instead, she just refocused and delivered her first home run of the season in the most crucial spot like champions do.

“It’s amazing,” Kamin said. “Such a big game like this, to move us to the championship game. It’s awesome.”

Not only did Kamin have to overcome the adversity Esky faced on a team level, she also redeemed herself from a costly error in the fourth inning. With two outs and nobody on, North Branch’s Autumn Deshetsky hit a sharp line drive off of Kamin’s glove at first base. Reese Ruhlman took advantage of the extended inning with an RBI double in the next at-bat to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead, which held up until Kamin’s home run.

The Eskymos’ bench and the fanbase behind her went nuts as soon as the ball left her bat. She was greeted by numerous high fives and hugs in the dugout, with chants of ‘U.P. power’ coming from the Esky crowd after the game.

“It feels good to shake off the errors and come back at it,” she said. “It just feels so good.”

Then there’s Gabi Salo.

After all the excitement of Kamin’s homer, there was still an inning left to play. North Branch didn’t go quietly, putting runners on second and third with one out before Salo slammed the door.

“I knew this team had so much fight in it,” Salo said. “This team never gives up. We’re a pretty young team this year, but we never give up.”

This type of finish has been common for the Eskymos lately, who went nine innings with Muskegon Oakridge in the regional final before pulling out a 1-0 win, and then scored two runs in the sixth inning to knock off Freeland 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Stevensville Lakeshore now awaits in the championship game Saturday at 10 a.m.

Experience has proven to help Esky plenty, with someone new always stepping up.

“Most of us have been to Michigan State either our freshman or sophomore year. I think that really helps,” Salo said. “We are a young team but we usually don’t act like it, which is a good thing. I think that big hit (by Kamin) brings the momentum to Saturday’s game. It really helps.”

Without that hit or Salo’s ability to pitch out of a jam, there might not be a game Saturday for the Eskymos. Whether they can finish it off and repeat as state champs remains to be seen.

But one thing is for sure – they have what it takes. They proved it again Thursday.