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Softball: Hancock’s rally falls short in D4 regional loss to Ishpeming

RAPID RIVER — A late comeback by the Hancock Bulldogs fell a run short here Saturday in a 6-5 loss to the Ishpeming Hematites in Division 4 regional softball opener.

Hailey Hytinen, who walked in her first three trips to the plate, gave Ishpeming a 6-1 advantage on a leadoff home run to left-centerfield in the sixth inning.

Hancock, taking advantage of two errors, got a run back in its half of the sixth.

With two out in the seventh, Hancock’s Kaisa Salani ripped a double to left-center and scored on Kaydence Kilpela’s single to center, making it 6-3.

Sophie Heinonen then blasted a two-run shot to left, bringing the Bulldogs within a run.

Ishpeming freshman pitcher Payton Manninen then relieved Hytinen and struck out the final hitter.

“Even though we had two out, we knew we had all our big bats coming up,” said Hancock coach Randy Heinonen. “We told the girls to get on base anyway they could. Sophie crushed that ball and gave us a chance. Then, they made the switch and got the out they needed. We told the girls we didn’t need to get it all back at once. We got the run back in the sixth and gave ourselves a chance. There’s no quit in this team. All year we’ve battled back when we got down.”

Rudyard (27-5) then defeated Ishpeming 6-1 for its third straight title and hosts Hillman in a state quarterfinal contest Tuesday. The Hematites finished 9-16.

Hytinen opened the scoring on a throwing error in the first, then gave the Hematites a two-run cushion on Ella Luke’s single to right in the third.

The Bulldogs (12-13) got on the board on Salani’s double to left in the third.

Ishpeming answered with three runs in the fifth, taking advantage of an error and back-to-back singles to center by Jenna Maki and Emily Morton for a 5-1 lead.

Eight Ishpeming players had one hit apiece. Salani had two of Hancock’s seven hits.

Manninen worked 6 2/3 innings for the win. She struck out seven and walked none.

“We had lost to that team twice this year,” said Ishpeming coach Ben McGuire. “That was a real good win for us. The kids played well in that game.”

Kilpela, who went the distance, absorbed the loss. She fanned nine, walked five and gave up eight hits.

“At first we weren’t sure we’d have enough for a team, but the girls kept getting better and got to the regional tournament,” said coach Heinonen. “We were playing pretty well toward the end of the season.”

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