Esky falls in home opener
ESCANABA — After over a week off the field, the Escanaba softball team resumed its season with its home opener and a difficult proposition. The Eskymos faced off against currently undefeated and reigning Division 3 state champ Millington early Sunday for a Mother’s Day feature.
The Cardinals held off an Escanaba rally to take home the 7-5 win.
“We don’t shy away from anybody, but we knew we were going to be up against it a little bit,” Esky coach Andy Fields said. “It was our home opener, and I want to thank Millington for coming up. They come up every year, and they’re a great team. We lost to a great team today, but we can play better.”
Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Esky trailed 5-2 after Millington added a run in the top.
Paxton Bullen started the Eskymos off, reaching on a bunt. McKenna Bullen followed up with a hard ground ball to center, allowing Paxton Bullen to take third.
Next, it was Carney Salo’s sacrifice fly that earned her an RBI and scored Paxton Bullen to cut the Eskymos’ deficit to 5-3.
“Carney Salo had a really solid game today at and behind the plate,” fields said. “McKenna was (also) solid today. She came through when we needed her.”
Millington pitcher Ashley Ziel struck the next batter out, but McKayla Mott was up next and got a piece of the ball for an RBI single as McKenna Bullen crossed home plate.
Ziel shut out the inning with another strikeout, leaving the Eskymos down one heading into the sixth, 5-4.
In the top of the sixth, the Cardinals quickly put two on base before a ground out.
Following the out, the Eskymos fumbled Summer Mauk’s fly to right field, and two Millington runners scored to make it 7-4.
“That’s what I talked to the ladies about,” Fields said. “Small errors here and there can change the complexion of a game.”
A fly out caught by Abby Hill and another ground out stemmed the bleeding for the Eskymos.
However, the Eskymos only added one more run in the bottom of the sixth off a ground single from McKenna Bullen despite locking down the Cardinals and ran out of time.
Escanaba started off on a positive note, forcing three outs across four batters in the first before quickly putting two runners on base at the start of the bottom.
With McKenna Bullen and Salo on third and second respectively, a wild pitch allowed McKenna Bullen to cross home and score the first run of the game.
“That was probably more errors than we’ve had all year,” Cardinals coach Greg Hudie said. “We just had some little hiccups there. It’s something we’ll address obviously, but I think it was a lot of fluke, pop-up errors. We’ll address that in practice Monday.”
Shortly after, it was a fly-double from Esky’s Erica Moore that gave Salo the opportunity to score and give it a 2-0 lead entering the second.
Emily Moore took the loss for Escanaba over four innings, allowing five hits and four runs (3 ER) while striking out three. Mott pitched three innings in relief, fanning three and giving up three hits and three runs (1 ER).
McKenna Bullen (3-4 AB), Salo, Mott and Erica Moore all collected RBIs for Escanaba.
“Escanaba is an awesome team,” Hudie said. “We love to come up here. We have a very good relationship with them. It isn’t an all-out rival war, but it’s more friendly. They root for us just as hard as we root for them all year long. They were an awesome host, and we love coming up here. The girls did really well. I think we had a good bonding experience up here, and now, we’re in the home stretch of the season.”
Ziel earned the win for the Cardinals, allowing 10 hits and five runs (2 ER) while fanning 13.
Trinity Fessler earned three RBIs for Millington, and Leah Coleman and Fessler each picked up two hits apiece.
“I want to thank the community,” Fields said. “Coming out and supporting the girls on opening day, it’s amazing. We don’t get this anywhere else we go in the state. Escanaba shows up like this, and it’s pretty special. And, I just want to say, happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and my mom and my wife.”
Escanaba hosts Kingsford Thursday.