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Negaunee tops Hancock to win WestPAC tournament

The Negaunee High School varsity softball team poses after winning the WestPAC Tournament Saturday at Driving Park in Hancock. (Eddie O’Neill/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — For the second year in a row, the Negaunee Miners took home the annual WestPAC softball trophy as they defeated the Hancock Bulldogs 10-0 in five innings.

The Miners did not allow an opponent to score a run all day. The No.1-seed Miners shut out Gwinn and Ishpeming to get to the championship game against the No. 3-seed Bulldogs (14-6).

“The girls put together three shutouts and I’m very proud of that,” said Negaunee head coach Randy Carlson. “We are lucky to have three good pitchers who throw strikes and have a good defense to back them up. These were complete-game, team wins. There was great effort all around.”

Despite the loss, Bulldogs head coach Randy Heinonen said he was anything but disappointed as his girls’ 8-6 win against Westwood in the opening round of the tournament and then an 8-4 victory against Houghton were equally meaningful.

“The Westwood win was the first time we had beaten them in program history,” he said. “So, that was a big win for us. I was very happy in the way we played that one as it was one of the most fundamentally sound games we’ve played in a long time.”

With the win over Houghton in the second round of the eight-team tournament, the Bulldogs pinned the Gremlins (21-1) with their first loss of the season, and it felt good.

“With Houghton, it is always emotional,” he added. “They are our rival and have beaten us several times already this season, and we really wanted to win that one, and we did. I was very pleased with our pitcher Sadie Biekkola. She went the distance to get the win against Houghton.”

Heinonen added that his catcher Brooke Koskela had a great day behind the plate as she threw out a couple of runners stealing.

“However, by the time we got here to the championship game – our third of the day, we just had run out of gas,” said Heinonen. We were worn out, and Negaunee is just a deep team and so good year in and year out. They proved that again here today.”

In the bottom of the third inning, the Miners added two runs to their 1-0 lead. With a walk to Josie Thomas and a base rap by Lilly Nelson, the stage was set for right-handed hitter Kallen Schultz. She promptly cleared the bases with a triple to make it a 3-0 Negaunee tilt after three innings.

Miners’ pitcher Grace Nardi kept the Bulldogs at bay allowing only two hits and one walk in five innings in the championship game.

“She was in control and threw a five-inning shutout. I was very proud of her,” noted her coach.

Meanwhile the Bulldogs hurlers struggled to find the strike zone. It all came apart in the fifth inning. Starter Biekkola and reliever Kaydence Kilpela walked eight Miners combined in the last game. Two of those walks counted for runs in the fifth. As well, the Bulldogs’ fielders were worn out and made one two many misplays or errant throws. Negaunee scored seven runs in the fifth for the walk-off mercy win at 10-0.

The Bulldogs will have little time for rest. They host Westwood today, Baraga on Tuesday, and Negaunee on Wednesday.

HCHS 000 00 – 0

NHS 102 07 – 10

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