Calumet sweeps L’Anse, wins conference

LAURIUM – Thanks to a pair of recent one-run losses to the Hancock Bulldogs, the Calumet Copper Kings came into Thursday night’s doubleheader against the L’Anse Purple Hornets needing to win both games if they wanted to clinch a conference title. Nineteen strikeouts from Emily Erkkila and some timely hits in the nightcap from Ali Spence led the Copper Kings to a sweep of the games, 4-0 and 10-5.

In situations like this, your best players have to play like your best players and Erkkila did just that, racking up nine of her strikeouts in the opener. She kept the Hornets’ potent offense at bay, allowing only six baserunners in the contest.

“If I had to pick the number one pitcher in the league, I would be grabbing Emily just because she’s such a tough competitor,” said Copper Kings manager Joel Rastello. “She didn’t have hardly any walks, even later in the game. She was just on today.”

In the nightcap, she surrendered three runs in the top of the first before allowing only three more baserunners over the rest of the game.

“We couldn’t get on base,” said Hornets manager Janet Rossi. “If we got on base, we couldn’t get the runs in.”

Sarah Dix and Emily Magaraggia accounted for for four of the six baserunners L’Anse had in the first game. Both had one hit and one walk.

Maegan Kraft, the Hornets’ top pitcher, went toe-to-toe with Erkkila, neither blinking until the top of the fourth inning where Kraft found herself some trouble.

Kendra Keranen opened the inning with a single. Maybelline Beiring followed with a single. Celia Peterson knocked Keranen home with a single. Reina Berg looped a double into the outfield, bringing Beiring home in the process and giving them a 2-0 lead..

Vera Peterson singled. Leah Kiilunen walked, loading the bases. Kraft dug deep and got Spence to strikeout and Anne Sturos to ground out, ending the threat.

The game remained 2-0 for the hosts until the top of the sixth. Berg opened the inning by hitting a ground ball that found its way through along the third base line. Vera Peterson doubled to center field, but Berg was called out at third.

Kiilunen bunted and outran the throw to first. Peterson scored on the play. Sturos hit a fly ball to left field, but the ball managed to elude Brianna Keinz in left field, falling for a hit and allowing Kiilunen to arrive home safely, putting Calumet up 4-0.

Needing to win the second game as well, Rastello turned back to Erkkila, but the decision nearly backfired in the top of the first.

Lauren Gabe walked to start things off. Dix bunted and beat the throw to first. Jessica Rossi singled to right field, scoring Gabe. Kraft hit into fielder’s choice, scoring Dix. Froberg singled over Copper Kings shortstop Clara Loukus to bring Rossi home and give the visitors a 3-0 lead.

Calumet remained calm and waited for their opportunity in the bottom half of the inning. With Josie Rice on the mound, the Copper Kings dug deep.

Loukus singled to right field. Keranen walked. Celia Peterson hit a ball to Magaraggia, but the shortstop struggled to get the ball under control, allowing Peterson to load the bases. Berg hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring Loukus home.

Vera Peterson knocked the ball through Magaraggia’s legs and reached first, scoring both Keranen and Celia Peterson in the process to tie things up, 3-3.

In the bottom of the second, Spence popped up to Rice, however the ball fell behind the Hornets’ hurler, allowing Spence to reach first. Loukus walked two batters later. Keranen loaded the bases by drawing a walk as well. Beiring hit into a fielder’s choice, but it allowed Spece to score, giving Calumet the lead, 4-3.

Rice’s tough night on the mound continued in the bottom of the third. Berg drew a leadoff walk. Kiilunen bunted and outran the throw to first. Spence also bunted and ran hard to reach first. Berg was thrown out at third on the play. Sturos singled to bring home Kiilunen and Spence.

Rice was replaced on the mound by Kraft, who had been playing left field, but things did not get much better for the visitors right away.

“We went with Josie because we needed Maegan in left field,” said Janet Rossi. “You saw what Maegan can do out there in left, but we need her on the mound too.”

Loukus drew a walk. A passed ball allowed Sturos to score. Keranen doubled to right center, scoring Loukus and putting Calumet up 8-3.

Erkkila got two of the final three batters to strikeout to end the game.