HANCOCK - A frigid, biting wind swept across the playing field at the Hancock Driving Park Tuesday as players and fans alike bundled in layers, gloves and hats.
Still, to the Calumet Copper Kings softball team, the weather was idyllic.
There was a field to play on, something that could not be said in their hometown to the north where the gymnasium was the only practice surface playable.
Hancock third baseman Sara Puuri tags out Calumet’s May Beiring during Tuesday’s softball doubleheader at Hancock Driving Park. The Copper Kings won 17-14 and 12-0. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
The Kings showed their thanks for actual dirt and grass with a come-from-behind 17-14 in sweep in game one and a clinical 12-0 mercy rule victory in game two. It was the second sweep in a row for Calumet, who won both contests against Houghton Monday.
"We are off to a good start," Calumet co-coach Joel Rastello said. "We have a strong defense and some good, solid hitting. I really like how the girls have been able to concentrate - you know, we are still practicing in the gym - through all the distractions. The weather, the field. They are doing a real nice job to start."
Calumet trailed by six runs to the Bulldogs through five innings in game one, before scoring seven runs in the sixth inning and another two in the seventh to complete the comeback.
Rastello credited the turnaround with the infusion of energy from subs MacKenna Monticello, Cassie Feely and Baily Labelle who combined for three hits, three runs and four RBIs over the final two innings, with Labelle pitching for the victory.
Every King who started reached base safely at least once, while senior Megan Yeo led the way going 2-for-4 with a double.
"A very close game, very close," Hancock coach Randy Meyer said. "Unfortunately just one bad inning cost us the game.
"When it is this cold the kids minds go sideways sometimes. I try to convince them it's all in their minds, you have to defeat the cold, but it's harder to play in this weather, it definitely is. It's a big distraction."
"Hancock were hitting with a lot more power than we expected," Rastello added. "We were kind of in the doldrums and the subs gave us a spark for the comeback."
Freshman Emily Erkkila took the pitching rubber for game two, mowing through Hancock hitters with a strong command of the strike zone and a smart mix of speeds.
Calumet gave Erkkila a two-run lead in the first inning to protect and then ended the game with a 10-run surge in the fifth to kick in the mercy rule.
Erkkila gave up just two hits (with four walks) and two strike outs as she kept the ball low and let her defense churn out outs.
"She is composed," Rastello said. "She throws strikes, mixes it up and gets groundballs."
Yeo in particular shined in the field, accounting for three smart outs from shortstop, including one silky pick and throw to preserve the shutout in the fourth inning with a runner at third base.
May Beiring, Selina Stromer and Yeo all recorded two hits in the second game, but it was the defense that stood out in the run-rule victory.
"She is a senior, a team captain and she is just so smooth in the field," Rastello said. "She has done a very nice job for us."