Gremlins, Copper Kings play to split during doubleheader Monday

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton’s Sam Keskimaki attempts to connect with a pitch during a doubleheader Monday against Calumet at the Hancock Driving Park.

HANCOCK — The Houghton Gremlins and the Calumet Copper Kings baseball teams played to a split Monday evening at the Hancock Driving Park. The Gremlins claimed the opener, but fell in dramatic fashion in the nightcap.

With one out in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied 7-7 Monday, Calumet freshman Jackson Rilei stepped up to the plate. The winning running run in the form of Brent Loukus was just 90 feet away. With the count full, Rilei hits a hard ground ball to first, Houghton’s Reid Heathman snagged the ball, stepped on first and threw home but the throw was too late as Loukus had already crossed home plate.

The Copper Kings won the game, 9-8.

“Tough loss, but that’s baseball,” said Houghton’s manager Joe Romano. “There was good baseball all around today. The better team won that second game.”

While Calumet may have been the “better team” in the second game, the Gremlins were the “better team” in the first game as they won, 4-3, in similar sound-baseball fashion.

In that one, the Copper Kings scored twice in their at bat taking advantage of walks to Brandon Antilla and Dan Tarnowski given up by Houghton’s hurler, Kevin Bostwick.

The Gremlins came back to tie it in the bottom of the second when Brandon Norkol was walked by Calumet’s hurler Trevor Hendrickson. Eli Oldt moved him forward with a single to left.

Center fielder Dylan Horning then earned his way to first with a walk to load the bases for second baseman Kade Farrell. He struck out, but Bostwick followed him with a two-run line-drive single, and the score was tied at two after two innings of play.

They went ahead in the third on a base hit by Justin Norkol who eventually came home on a passed ball. They would get one more in the fourth inning compliments of another hit by Justin Norkol.

While the Copper Kings would get one more in fourth as well, it would not be enough to catch the Gremlins in the opener.

“I was happy with our performance,” said Romano. “Things are coming along. I am particularity pleased with the play of my freshmen. I have six great freshman who contribute day-in and day-out playing against guys who are three or four years older than them.”

Romano also praised his three seniors as well.

“They (seniors) are great leaders and everybody else fills in the gap,” he said. “I feel good about where we are and where we are going”

In Game Two, Calumet’s manager David Yeo had a chance to praise his players and their come-from-behind victory.

“It was good baseball all around today and the our boys came through in the second game,” he said. “I was happy with our timely hitting as were able to get the runners in when we needed them.”

Much of the timely hitting for the Copper Kings took place in the fifth inning as they knocked in four runs and took a 7-5 lead after being down 5-3.

Back-to-back walks in that inning set the stage for a Loukus double which scored one. Rilei then followed with an RBI single, and as he reached first Hendrickson stepped up to the plate. He smacked a 2-2 pitch to the gap in left field which rolled to the wall and brought two more runs.

However, the Gremlins were not going down easy as they tacked on three of their own in the sixth thanks to hit by Farrell and a two-run line drive up the middle by Justin Norkol to tie the game. Norkol would eventually make it home on a throwing error by Calumet’s second baseman Rilei and give the Gremlins an 8-7 lead.

But Rilei would redeem himself a half inning later with his game-winning RBI grounder the next inning.

“We are getting better every game,” said Yeo, “and it is fun to watch.”