Bulldogs softball takes pair of games from Patriots Monday

Hancock right fielder Megan Pelto fouls off a pitch during the first game of a doubleheader against Westwood Monday at the Bill Givens Memorial Little League Field at the Hancock Driving Park. (Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — With the regular season coming to a close and districts next weekend, the Hancock Bulldogs softball team wants to be doing what it does best at this point, play strong defensively and pitch well. If their bats come along for the ride, they are confident that they can compete with anyone they will see in the coming games.

Monday evening, they took on the Westwood Patriots, who were making their third trip to the Copper Country in the past several days. The Bulldogs took advantage of the road-weary Patriots to win both games of a doubleheader, 4-1 and 5-3.

The Patriots had dropped both games over the weekend to the Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes and the Houghton Gremlins, but they returned to action at the Bill Givens Memorial Little League Field at the Hancock Driving Park determined to close their season strong, and they gave Hancock all it could handle.

Bulldogs coach Craig Biekkola felt that both teams played tough.

“The pitching was really good on both sides,” he said. “There were only a couple of walks. Pitchers were throwing strikes, and when the balls were put in play, there were a lot of nice plays both ways defensively.”

For the experienced Bulldogs, who feature a roster with four seniors and six juniors, winning games where they cannot make use of big hits that either sail to the outfield fence, or over it, has become something they excel in. Monday, they had chances to work on that skill again.

“I think that comes with experience,” said Craig Biekkola. “We’ve had a lot of girls on this team play a lot of playoff games and a lot of close games over the past three seasons. They don’t get rattled. They’ve been in a lot of tough spots and found ways to come back.

“I think that experience shows. They never give up, and they don’t lose their composure. We’ve been finding ways to win.”

The Bulldogs have done a lot of winning this season so far, going 22-5 to this point in the season. Their coach feels that much of that can be attributed to how hard they work defensively.

“Limiting mistakes defensively is huge,” Craig Biekkola said. “Not giving an extra base, not making, I guess, a bad throw, or hitting the wrong cut off, and stuff like that. It’s all important, especially once you get towards the end of the season and to get ready for the playoffs.

“Good teams will find a way to expose you if you make a mistake, and that’s what we’re trying to limit.”

In the opening game, the Bulldogs scored three runs combined in the second and third innings to help support pitcher Sadie Biekkola, who was strong in the pitcher’s circle. She went seven innings, striking out four, walking one and giving up six hits over the course of the game.

Hancock got their offense started in the second when right fielder Megan Pelto reached on a defensive error. She got to second before the play came to an end. Shortstop Kaelyn Rouleau then singled to left field. Before the play came to an end, she advanced to second, and Pelto got to third.

Third baseman Syndie Scholie then grounded out, but Pelto scored on the play. Rouleau then scored with Ella Storm at the plate thanks to a passed ball, putting the Bulldogs up 2-0.

Hancock added a third run in the third inning. Second baseman Josie Hembroff singled to lead off the inning. She was later tagged out at third, but that was after left fielder Sofie Freeman had already singled to right field and catcher Brooke Koskela was at the plate. After Koskela grounded out, Sadie Biekkola also grounded out, but Freeman had already scored on a passed ball before Biekkola made contact with the third pitch of the at bat.

The Bulldogs scored again in the sixth. With one out, Sadie Biekkola singled to center field. A wild pitch allowed Biekkola to get to third. Pelto grounded out, but Biekkola scored on the play.

In the nightcap, the Bulldogs did a good job again of supporting their pitcher. Scholie went seven innings, striking out two, walking one and giving up eight hits, but she only gave up two earned runs.

“She’s been doing great,” said Craig Biekkola. “She’s been throwing a lot of strikes on the first pitch. She gets to count in her favor. Defense did well behind it today, and that’s all we can ask for.”

Hancock got on the board first. Storm led off with a single to center field. She scored on a single by Sadie Biekkola two batters later. Pelto followed with a single to left field. Scholie did ground out to follow Pelto, but Biekkola scored on the play to push the Bulldogs’ lead to two, 2-0.

Westwood got a run back in the bottom of the first and the game remained 2-1 until the third.

Storm led off with a single to third. Koskela then laid down a bunt and reached first on the play. Two batters later, Pelto struck out, but she got to first on a dropped third strike. Before that happened, Storm and Kosela scored on different passed balls during her at bat. The Bulldogs then added a fifth run when catcher Alice Larson singled to right field, knocking Pelto home in the process.

Westwood added two more runs in the top of the fourth inning, but could not get any closer.


The Bulldogs were back in action Tuesday at Negaunee with a chance to tie for the WestPAC regular season title if they beat the Miners in the opening game of a doubleheader.


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