Double down: Finlandia shakes jitters, sweeps Northland College Thursday

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Finlandia’s Makenna Gorham extends to make a catch during the first game of a doubleheader against Northland College Thursday at the Driving Park. The Lions won both games.

HANCOCK — On Thursday afternoon, something not seen in 11 years was in full bloom as the Finlandia Lions softball team played its lone home series of the season. Their opponent, the Northland Lumberjills, made life difficult for the Lions in the opener, but could not withstand the offensive onslaught the Lions brought to the contest in the nightcap.

The Lions won both games, 7-3, and 12-1, at the Driving Park.

Lions manager Matt Farrell admitted that he thought his girls struggled with the big stage in the early going of the opener.

“I know that the girls were excited because I don’t think there’s been a home game here in about 10 years,” he said. “So they were very excited. I think that they actually came out a little bit nervous in the first game.”

After jumping out to a 2-1 lead early, the Lions extended their advantage when sophomore Cassy Lopez walked and then later scored on a passed ball. Junior pitcher Denia Bent had a chance to add to the advantage, but she ended up flying out to end the threat.

The game remained a two-run game until the bottom of the fourth when sophomore Elijah Marshall reached on a defensive error by outrunning the throw. She advanced to third on a pair of passed balls before scoring on yet another.

While Marshall was making her way around, junior Harlie Caster walked and later stole second. She was later Brough home thanks to a sacrifice by freshman Rheanna Bain, pushing the Lions’ advantage to four, 5-1.

Two innings later, the Lions suddenly found their lead evaporating as defensive errors crept in around the home squad.

The Lumberjills squeezed the game down to 5-3 thanks to a double by 20, who drilled a ball down the right field line that Marshall had a slow start to. Two runs scored on the play.

“They dropped a couple of easy fly balls,” said Farrell. “(Playing at home) I think was part of it.”

Rather than fold up their chairs and leave the campfire, the Lions answered right back, showing the type of resiliency that Farrell wants from his squad as they reach the ACAA Championships.

Caster got things going by drawing a walk. After she stole second, Bain laid down a near perfect bunt, and then beat the ensuing throw. Both runners got themselves into scoring position while Bent was at the plate. Junior Makenna Gotham was then walked, with the fourth pitch being a passed ball, allowing Caster to score.

Junior Kassandra Avila then hit a one-out sacrifice fly to short, which gave Bain a chance to cross the plate with the Lions’ seventh, and final, run.

While he felt that his team was not playing as well as it did Monday in a split with Bay College, Farrell was pleased to see the bats start to heat up late in the opening game.

“In the second game, we played much better, much more like our style,” he said. “I thought that, once we reached the end of the first game, we started to play a little bit better.”

Bent threw a complete game eight-hitter in the contest.

From there, the Lions bore down in the nightcap.

In the first inning, Caster scored on a passed ball. Bain moved to third before being knocked home by Gorham as the Lions took a 2-0 lead after the first inning. The Lions had a chance to extend the lead before the inning was over, but sophomore Kyndell Coffman grounded out to end the threat.

The Lumberjills quickly cut the lead in half when Saylor Donnelly scored on on a long drive by Markia Smith to center field to make the game 2-1.

That was as close as the Lumberjills would get.

In the bottom of the third, the Lions showed incredible focus, which helped lead to a six-run outburst. It all started with Bent drawing a walk. After she stole second, Gotham doubled the center field fence to bring her home. Caster followed with a walk before Coffman drilled a liner to left field, scoring Gotham.

From there, things went from bad to worse for the Lumberjills, as Lopez laid down a bunt that barely traveled two feet, loading the bases. Northland manager Tiffany Hudack pulled her catcher Remi Orr from the game after that play, moving her to third base and pulling her third baseman, Chyenne Otto, from the game entirely.

The moves did little to slow the onslaught as sophomore Maegan Kraft walked, which brought another run home. Freshman Maia Haske then singled to the left field fence to bring another run home.

Still in the third, the Lions added two more runs as Caster reached first on a defensive error, allowing a run to score. Kraft was then brought home by a sacrifice by Bain, pushing the advantage to 8-1.

The Lions then added four more runs in the bottom of the fourth to put the game out of reach.

Freshman Frannette Fernandez pitched a one-hitter over five innings to earn the win for Finlandia.

With the wins, the Lions finished the regular season portion of their schedule. They will have a week off to get ready for the ACAA Championships, where they will play in the opening round on Saturday, May 4.