Calumet records 31 hits in sweep over Jeffers

Calumet’s Oliva Hodges steals second as Jeffers’ Marissa Nordstrom waits for the throw from home Tuesday at Gipp Field in Laurium. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

LAURIUM — According to Joel Rastello, the field at Houghton slopes a bit downward towards home plate. And on Monday, his team didn’t adjust well, settling for a split against the rival Gremlins as the Calumet offense failed to deliver the many hard-hitting liners its known for. 

“Kind of get under the ball the way the field is set up,” he said of playing at Houghton. “It’s not an excuse; everyone plays the same way.”

But all it took was one batting cage session and a return to Gipp Field to solve Calumet’s offensive issues. The Copper Kings recorded 16 hits in Game 1 and 15 in the nightcap to sweep the Jeffers Jets 18-8 and 19-11 Tuesday in Laurium.

“I think going to the cage before the game helped,” Rastello said of his team’s traditional pre-game routine. “They were mad they lost (to Houghton); that was the biggest thing. I thought they came with a little more focus.”

Before Calumet’s offense would go off, Jeffers jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second inning of the opener. Brooke Heinonen recorded an RBI single to score Grace Laitala, and Marissa Nordstrom scored Milly Allen and Heinonen on an RBI single of her own to cap a three-run second inning. 

“I’m pleased with the improvement our team has made. We’ve improved leaps and bounds,” Jeffers coach Sean Connors said. “One bad inning in the first game, but overall, we played real solid. Had really good defense, bunts were fantastic; we played a quality team, and we gave them two competitive games.”

Trailing 7-4 in the top of the fifth, Calumet’s offense finally found a rhythm. Brittany Heikkila hit a two-run RBI single to give her team a 9-7 lead. It was Calumet’s fifth hit of the inning.

Kendra Keranen had Calumet’s biggest hit of a nine-run sixth inning with a three-run RBI triple. Andrea Kariniemi, Samantha Plante, Olivia Hodges, Vera Peterson, Allison Spence and Joanna Berg each had RBIs in the inning. 

“I think they started batting with more confidence as they hit the ball early on,” Rastello said. “The positive energy kind of feeds on itself and just takes off from there.”

Keranan continued to produce in Game 2, going 4 for 4 with two RBI and a walk. She drove in Elli Djerf on an RBI single to get Calumet on the board after Djerf tripled. Peterson and Spence also came across to score to answer Jeffers’ three-run first inning for a 4-3 advantage.

“Eventually, good hitting teams are going to get hits,” Connors said. “You can’t have any errors. You have to do fundamentals right. Fundamentals win games. That’s what it is, and you have to be able to hit with them.”

Calumet took an 11-3 lead before Jeffers would put together a rally, scoring three runs in the third and five in the sixth to cut Calumet’s lead to 14-11 before heading to the bottom of the sixth.

Brenna Hill kept Jeffers’ scoring surge alive with a bunt single to score Leah Pennala in the sixth. Hill also started the game with a bunt single, igniting Jeffers’ three-run first inning.

“I think Brenna laid down some nice bunts and sparked our offense, and I was pleased with that,” Connors said. “We mixed in some smart baserunning in with the hits to be able to turn the lineup over.”

Jeffers was also aided by multiple Calumet errors. Out of the 11 runs in Game 2, only four were earned off Calumet pitcher Molly Helminen.

“We just started booting the ball and getting a little overconfident,” Rastello said. “But Jeffers is really improved this year. They have good athletes playing good ball.”