HOUGHTON – With a chance to win the game, Calumet’s Maybelline Beiring’s nerves were in full force.
“I was freaking out,” she said. “I had two strikes on me, but I had faith in myself and faith in my team.”
With the Calumet Copper Kings and Houghton Gremlins tied at 5 in the bottom of the eighth, with Calumet’s Anne Sturos on third, Beiring ripped a line-drive base hit to center field that ricocheted off the outfield fence, scoring Sturos to give Calumet a 6-5 win Monday in Houghton.
It was Beiring’s first walk-off hit of her career and the game-winner ensured a sweep for the Copper Kings, who topped the Gremlins 9-5 in Game 1. Beiring finished the game 3 for 5 with three RBIs.
“Maybelline has the best batting average on the team,” Calumet head coach Joel Rastello said. “She’s probably batting over .500, now. She’s the person we want there (with the game on the line) – her or Clara (Loukus).”
Beiring’s heroics almost didn’t appear necessary for much of Game 2; Calumet led from the first inning, as Loukus scored off an error and Beiring drove in Kendra Keranen for a 2-0 lead. The Copper Kings took a 5-2 lead into the top of the seventh and were two outs away from the sweep until Houghton’s Anna Gaffney launched a no-doubt three-run homer over the right-field fence to tie the game at 5.
“Anna’s a four-year starter and her bat has always kind of led her,” Houghton head coach Melissa Baker said.
Added Rastello: “Gaffney’s a good hitter. She did that to us the last time we played them But I just had a good feeling. Sometimes you come into these games and just say we’re going to win this thing.”
After Gaffney’s home run, Calumet pitcher Emily Erkkila – who earned the win in both games – settled down and retired the next five batters she faced.
“The lesson is: Don’t make Emily Erkkila upset,” Rastello said. “Once she gets upset, she gets mad and then you see how she pitches after she gets mad.
“She’s tough; she came through and knocked them down. We knew we had the right part of our lineup coming up and we figured we’d get someone in scoring position.”
Sturos started the eighth-inning rally with a single to right field; Keranen moved Sturos to third on another base hit to right field, setting the stage for Beiring.
For Houghton, it was another game of falling a hit or two short; the Gremlins stranded seven runners in scoring position and manufactured just eight hits.
“Anna had an awesome hit to bring the three runs in to score, but the rest of the game, if you look at our hitting, it really isn’t where it should be – or where when we played L’Anse (last week),” Baker said. “I feel like our bats definitely dropped a little bit, besides that one big hit.”
In Game 2, Erkkila pitched all eight innings and allowed five runs on eight hits and five walks while striking out five.
“I asked the team: Why in practice can you hit the ball so well, then in games you can’t? That’s the mystery,” Baker said.
“Erkkila’s a solid pitcher. She’s not going to walk too many girls. She pitches well with the corners and she pitched a good game and we weren’t able to hit her very well.”
Loukus led Calumet with four of the team’s 12 hits, going 4 of 5 from the plate, and scored three times.
While it was Houghton’s offense that was its downfall in Game 2, defensive miscues hampered the Gremlins in the opener; Houghton had four errors, resulting in seven unearned runs for Calumet.
“I just told the girls if we make errors, we’re going to lose,” Baker said. “If we don’t put the bat on the ball, we’re going to lose.”
Calumet’s Celia Peterson tallied a game-high three RBIs, while Loukus, Peterson and Vera Peterson each recorded two hits. Gaffney led Houghton with two RBIs.
Erkkila pitched all seven innings to earn the win, allowing five runs on six hits and five walks; she finished with nine strikeouts.
In Game 1, Houghton’s Colleen Toorongian surrendered two earned runs on nine hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. Beckah Goodreau pitched Game 2 for Houghton and allowed five earned runs on 12 hits, three walks and had three strikeouts.
Up next, Calumet hosts Superior Central today, while Houghton travels to Jeffers on Thursday.
Monday’s doubleheader was originally scheduled to be in Calumet, but due to the field conditions, the game was moved to Houghton.
“I didn’t really want to come down here and play, because you go to someone’s home turf and (the other team) doesn’t have to travel,” Rastello said. “I told the girls, ‘Hey, let’s just go down there and see if we can beat them down there.'”