HOUGHTON -Houghton's two wins over Lake Linden-Hubbell won't count for the new Copper Country Conference standings, but they'll count for the Gremlins' confidence and give the Lakes something to remember when the teams meet Saturday.
Houghton held off the Lakes 4-3 in the opener of the doubleheader then blew them out 12-1 (five innings) in the nightcap.
"I think we hit the ball well and we definitely were nice and aggressive on the bases. We have some speed and we started to use it today," Houghton coach Melissa Grego said.
Houghton shortstop Lisa Keskimaki throws across the diamond to retire Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Julia Hendrickson during the fourth inning of game two of a softball doubleheader at Houghton High School. Second baseman Anita Magyar looks on. Houghton swept the doubleheader 4-3 and 12-1. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
After four seasons as the only prep softball program within a 90-mile radius and a fifth as one of two in the area, Houghton has company in the newly-formed league that includes the first-year programs in L'Anse, Calumet and Jeffers (which includes Chassell students) and the second-year team at Hancock. Each team has two scheduled doubleheaders against the others in the league, with the second of the two counting for league play. The Lakes and Gremlins meet again Saturday at the Boneyard in Lake Linden in what will be the first counting contests in the league's history.
Between now and then, the Lakes could have some issues to resolve. Pitcher Sarah Audette was carried off the field with an apparent ankle injury after hitting second base awkwardly on a steal attempt in the third inning of the second game.
At the time of her exit, Houghton led only 3-1, but put up two runs in the bottom of the third on reliever Erin Gast and seven in the fourth to end the game via the run rule after LL-H was retired without scoring in the top of the fifth.
"She's our No. 1 pitcher, she's our No. 2 hitter, she's good with the bat, she's just an all-around athlete," LL-H coach Jeff Shepeard said of Audette.
Still, Shepeard was able to find some silver linings in the Lakes' second twinbill in as many days.
"We finally started to swing the bat a little bit better today. We were getting on base and we had a few errors early on, but we started to clean that up, and we think that will get better with some more experience."
In the opener, Houghton picked up pairs of runs in the first two innings without the benefit of a hit as a result of Lakes infield errors.
LL-H stopped the bleeding and eventually nibbled away at the deficit and Houghton pitcher Colleen Toorongian, with Audette and Gast scoring on a fourth-inning error. Gast came around again, singling, stealing second, then scoring on a Taylor Shepeard hit.
Houghton was unable to string hits together to get insurance runs, but Toorongian locked the game down by retiring the bottom of the Lakes' order in order in the seventh.
Toorongian allowed four hits and one earned run. She fanned six and walked one. Audette took the loss despite allowing no earned runs. She walked five and did not record a strikeout.
"We were just able to hold them defensively and we had a lot less errors than we had on Monday (a doubleheader loss to Calumet)," Grego said.
In the second game, four Gremlins (Lexi Pyykkonen, Megan Bugni, Anna Gaffney and Lisa Keskimaki) had two-hit games. Bekah Goodreau was the winning pitcher, allowing an unearned run and a single hit in five innings. She walked four and struck out two.
Before her injury, Audette allowed three runs, none earned, and one hit in two innings. She walked three and struck out two.