Miners sweep Bulldogs, claim WestPAC title

Hancock catcher Brooke Koskela focuses before seeing a pitch during the first game of doubleheader against Negaunee Wednesday at Barry Givens Field at the Driving Park in Hancock. (Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — With a 4-1 win in the opener over the Hancock Bulldogs, the Negaunee Miners claimed another WestPAC softball regular season title Wednesday afternoon at the Barry Givens Field at the Driving Park. In the nightcap, the Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead, but could not hold off the Miners, who came away with a 12-4 victory.

For Randy Carlson and the Miners, the two wins were an important step for his young squad.

“We’re a really young team, and it’s nice to see their growth over a year. After that first game, sometimes you claim something and you can have a little bit of a let off, but I like the way they came out and played and kept the momentum going.”

The Miners jumped out to a 3-0 lead in top of the first in the nightcap. Delaney Gladwell got things going with a single. Theresa Anderson followed with a double to center, scoring Gladwell. Anderson then scored on a single by Grace Nardi. Kallen Schultz then walked and later scored on a sacrifice bunt by Rheanna Nelson.

Without Krista Carello available to start the second game for the Miners, Carlson turned to Miya Fredrickson, whom the Bulldogs found a way to get to immediately.

Sofie Freeman started Hancock’s rally off with a walk. She was followed by a double from Brooke Koskela, which drove Freeman home. Sadie Biekkola then singled to score Koskela. Kaisa Salani singled. Emily Pierner struck out, but a passed ball on strike three gave Biekkola a chance to score, evening the game. Salani scored on a single to center from Alice Larson before a strikeout ended the inning with Hancock ahead 4-3.

Salani’s run was the last the Bulldogs scored, however, as they struggled to find base hits with runners on in the second, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh, including bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings.

“We couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it,” said Bulldogs coach Randy Heinonen. “In the last two weeks, we’ve had the bases loaded I don’t know, maybe five or six times, and we just haven’t gotten that big hit.”

While his team is struggling to find those key base hits in scoring situations, Heinonen is more concerned with making sure his team makes the right decisions when it comes to everything from baserunning to fielding, which he refers to as the fundamentals of the game.

“I’m still focusing on what we’re doing running-wise, taking the extra base, hitting the cut offs,” he said. “We were a little sloppy today in that, not as good as we usually are. So, we’ve got some practice time here before districts, and we’re going to use it to get better again at the fundamentals.”

Gladwell got the Miners back into the game in the top of the second when she tripled to center field. She then scored when Anderson drove her home with a triple off the right field fence.

In the third, the Miners found some more success. Schultz got things started with a single to right field. Nelson followed with a single to center. Two batters later, Rebecca Lammi capped the inning with a double that scored two and gave Negaunee a 7-4 lead.

A defensive error gave Anderson room to score in the top of the fourth, and Nardi scored shortly after when a hard hit ball by Schultz got past Salani at short. Nardi’s hot bat continued to do damage in the top of the fifth when she tripled the right field fence, scoring two runs along the way.

Nelson singled to third in the top of the sixth and later scored on a fielder’s choice play to cap the scoring in the contest.

In the opener, Nardi was effective in the circle for the Miners until the sixth inning. While she held the Bulldogs’ bats in check, her teammates helped her out by scoring four runs, two in the bottom of the first and two more in the bottom of the fourth.

“She’s one of those that you always feel good going into the game when she’s pitching, that you’re in good shape,” Carlson said. “She’s been solid all year long, and it’s one of those things. Sometimes we even, just like the other night, we just have to get her a couple of runs. If we get her a couple of runs, that’s all we need to do.”

She got things started in the bottom of the first by doubling to center field. Schultz then singled to center field to score Nardi. Fredrickson reached on a defensive error and the Miners led 2-0 quickly.

In the fourth, they struck again. Gladwell started things off with a single to left field. Anderson laid down a bunt to move her into scoring position. Anderson then scored on a triple to right field by Nardi. Nardi later scored on a sacrifice fly by Schultz, putting Negaunee up 4-0.

Hancock continued to battle, despite high winds and plunging temperatures, and then were rewarded in the top of the sixth. Koskela doubled to left field to get things started. Biekkola then sacrificed to advance Koskela to third. A defensive error allowed Koskela to score. Megan Pelto then walked and Sydnie Scholie singled, getting to second during a defensive misplay on a throw. However, that was all the offense Hancock could muster.


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