Split decision: Bulldogs, Gremlins earn split in home-opening series for Hancock

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton’s Cassidy Becia swings at a pitch from Hancock’s Delaney Heinonen during a doubleheader Wednesday at the Hancock Driving Park. The Gremlins won the opener with the Bulldogs taking the nightcap.

HANCOCK — The Hancock Bulldogs softball team opened the home portion of their schedule Wednesday by playing host to their rivals, the Houghton Gremlins at the Hancock Driving Park. While both teams had competed at the Spring Fling tournament at the Superior dome in Marquette earlier this month, this was both teams’ first outdoor series.

The teams split the doubleheader with the Gremlins winning the first game, 6-3, and the Bulldogs taking the second game, 6-4.

“It felt great to finally be in the sun and on a real field,” said Houghton manager Mel Baker. “It was an exciting first day.”

Randy Heinonen, head coach of Hancock, echoed a similar sentiment.

“Yes it was good to be outside, but we’ve got work to do,” he said. “We committed too many errors.”

In the opening game, the Bulldogs got on the scoreboard in the first inning as D’Andra Kero led things off with a walk. She stole second and advanced to third on an error. She was brought in on a hard-hit ground ball to Gremlins shortstop Quinn Donnelly, who overthrew the ball to first.

However, in the bottom half of the first, the Gremlins made their first mark as well. Third baseman McKenna Foster got on first with a walk and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. She went to third on a Cassidy Becia base hit, and Molly Bugni brought her home with an RBI ground out to first.

The Gremlins would go on to score one more in the second and another in the third while the Bulldogs gained a run in the third. After three the Gremlins led, 3-2.

Heinonen noted that his girls committed too many mistakes. Whether it was missed fly balls or errant throws, the Bulldogs in many ways beat themselves.

“We missed signs and should have advanced better on the bases,” he said. “But it’s early and we’ve got time to make adjustments. We struggled.”

Both teams’ starting pitchers pitched well. For the Gremlins, Josie Connors recorded the complete-game win. She threw seven strikeouts over seven innings and limited her walks to just a handful.

For the Bulldogs, Delaney Heinonen threw equally well as she struck out nine over seven innings.

The difference came in the way the Gremlins attacked the ball at the plate.

“We came out with some energy with the bats and I liked our pitching,” said Baker.

The bats came alive again the fifth with Becia and second baseman Isabelle Cleary getting hits and bringing in another run.

They added two more in the sixth due to missed balls by the Hancock defense and passed balls on the part of catcher Sophie Heinonen.

While the Bulldogs were able to grab one more run in the seventh, it was not enough to catch the Gremlins.

In the second game, the tables turned as it was the Bulldogs who got hot at the plate and sewed up holes in the field.

Baker stuck with Connors on the mound for the second game. However, she only lasted three innings as she gave up four runs.

Walks to Delaney Heinonen and Abby Brooks came home score in the first. In the third, base hits by Janie Berg, Heinonen and Brooks made the score 4-2 after three. Connors was replaced Cleary who came in from second base and stopped the bleeding.

Coach Heinonen was quite pleased with his starter, junior Peyton Dube. She got the complete-game win. While she only struck out three, her control was strong and her teammates played much better in the field.

“Peyton was outstanding on the mound,” said Heinonen. “The game was on her shoulders and the girls supported her defensively.”

With Hancock leading 4-2, Emma Almquist stepped up to the plate in the bottom half of the fourth and made the score 5-2 with a home run blast over the fence in right center.

“She has quite a swing and when she can connect good things are going to happen,” added Heinonen. “I was very happy for her and hopefully that will help her with her confidence

In the fifth, Donnelly started things off with a double and came home on a series of Hancock misplays to make the score 5-3. However, the Bulldogs pulled away with two more in the sixth with singles by Kero and Almquist and would go on to win the game 7-4.

“We were out played and couldn’t do anything right in that first game and they obviously played better in the second,” stated Heinonen after the win.

Baker was pleased to get a win as well.

“I was happy overall with their performance,” she said. “This was a good match up to start the season.”