Leading to wins: Bulldogs softball grabs leads, earns wins over Eskymos JV

Hancock’s Josie Hembroff tosses a ball to Alice Larson at first base during the first game of a doubleheader against the Escanaba junior varsity team Monday at the Bill Givens Memorial Little League Field at the Hancock Driving Park. (Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — On paper, the Hancock Bulldogs varsity softball team came into a matchup Monday with the Escanaba Eskymos junior varsity team as the more experienced squad with the better chance to win both games of a doubleheader at the Bill Givens Memorial Little League Field at the Hancock Driving Park.

After just one inning, things appeared ready to go that way, as the Bulldogs led 5-0, however the Eskymos found ways to claw their way back into the opener multiple times before eventually dropping the game, 13-9. In the nightcap, the Bulldogs were much better and earned a 10-0 win in five innings.

However, they knew they were in a battle the entire way.

“Doesn’t matter who they’re against, we’ll take them, you know?” said Bulldogs coach Craig Biekkola. “So, it was nice.”

Despite the fast start to the opener, the Bulldogs (20-3 overall) found themselves constantly needing to manufacture more runs in order to either regain their lead or extend it.

Hancock’s Megan Pelto connects with a pitch during the first game of a doubleheader against the Escanaba junior varsity team Monday at the Bill Givens Memorial Little League Field at the Hancock Driving Park. (Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette)

“It was nice to get a lead,” Craig Biekkola said. “I mean, we’ve been kind of behind the eight ball the last few weeks. We’ve found ways to come back and fight that way, but, you know, it was nice to get out front. They obviously had a push, and they hit the ball hard in that first game. We had to answer, and we did.”

A big part of that push back was the play of designated hitter Megan Pelto. She went 3-for-4 in the opener, knocking in three runs and scoring three times herself. She followed that effort up in the nightcap with a 2-for-3 effort with one RBI and one run scored.

Her coach feels that Pelto is doing anything drastically different, but is making better contact.

“I don’t really think she’s doing anything different,” he said. “She had a lot of good swings earlier in the season, and, you know, she either hit the ball right at somebody, or may have been just underneath it a little bit. Now, she’s hitting everything, and when she’s hitting it hard, she’s finding the holes.”

Pelto is giving the Bulldogs three formidable bats in the top half of their lineup, along with catcher/third baseman Brooke Koskela, and pitcher/first baseman Sadie Biekkola.

Koskela went 2-for-3 in the opener, drawing a walk and scoring twice. She followed that up with a 3-for-4 effort in the second game, including a solo home run to left field. She took a foul ball off of a knee in the first game, and then not only stayed in that game, but also played catcher again in the second game.

“She’s a tough kid, and we’ve got a lineup of tough kids,” said Craig Biekkola. “They work hard all the time and have good attitudes. Brooke is definitely one of the leaders as far as putting all the chips down when the time is there.”

Leading 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning in the opener, shortstop Kaelyn Rouleau sparked a big moment when she doubled to center field with Pelto and center fielder Ella Storm on base. Prior to Rouleau’s hit, Pelto scored by stealing home. While Rouleau was coming into second, a defensive error allowed Storm to score. Before the play ended, Rouleau rounded third and made her way home to give the Bulldogs a 5-0 at that point.

The Eskymos bounded back into the game in the top of the third, evening the score.

Storm got things started when she reached first on a defensive error. Rouleau then singled. Storm scored two batters later on a passed ball with right fielder Mallory Sporalski at the plate. Then Sporalski singled to center, scoring Rouleau.

Escanaba got two runs back in the top of the fourth to even things again at 7-7.

Koskela singled to center field with one out to get things started in the bottom of the fourth. Sadie Biekkola sacrificed to bring Koskela home. Pelto then doubled to center. Storm brought her home with a single over second base. Rouleau singled to center field, which was enough to knock Storm home. Rouleau was then caught trying for second.

The Eskymos got one run back in each of the fifth and sixth innings to cut the lead down to one, 10-9 heading into the bottom half of the sixth.

With one down, Koskela drew a walk. Sadie Biekkola then singled to left field, scoring Koskela, and giving her time to make it to second before the play ended. Pelto then singled to center field, scoring Biekkola. After Storm sacrificed to advance the runners, Rouleau struck out, however, Pelto scored on a passed ball before the strikeout.

Sadie Biekkola went seven innings in the pitcher’s circle, striking out three, walking five, and giving up 11 hits to earn the win.

In the second game, Hancock got a boost from pitcher Sydnie Scholie, who struck out two and gave up only one hit over five innings en route to the win. Her coach felt that a big reason for her success was the fact that she simply threw strikes.

“She pitched really well, but she also threw a lot of strikes, and when you get that first-pitch strike, you put everything in your favor, and (that) puts the batters on their heels a little bit,” Craig Biekkola said. “When they did hit the ball, our defense made the plays, and that’s all we can ask for.”

Offensively, alongside Koskela’s home run and Sadie Biekkola’s steady presence at the plate, the Bulldogs also saw left fielder Sofie Freeman go 2-for-4 with one RBI and three runs scored.

Storm, Rouleau, and shortstop Josie Hembroff also had one hit each, with Hembroff also drawing a pair of walks.


Hancock returns to action Wednesday, when they host Houghton.


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