L’ANSE – Houghton and Hancock split in a season-opening doubleheader Friday at a neutral site.
With the L’Anse High School softball field devoid of snow, the Gremlins slugged their way to a 19-14 win in the first game, and the Bulldogs took the second game 10-7. The second game ended after just four innings due to darkness.
After weeks and weeks in their respective gyms, both coaches said it was just good to finally be outside playing ball.
“All the girls were happy to be here,” got Hancock head coach Randy Heinonen. “We are very grateful to L’Anse to help us get down here and playing on a real field.”
There was a new pitcher in the opener for Houghton. Making her high school debut, Stella Soumi threw six innings -striking out seven and walking 14.
“She throws strikes,” got Gremlins’ head coach Mel Baker. “I also have another freshman, Reagan Moyle, who is very good, and Grace Brunet will be my third pitcher. It is the most pitchers I have had in a while. ”
Senior ace, Kaydence Kilpela, was back on the mound for Hancock in the opener.
The bats from both benches came out strong. After the first inning, the Bulldogs led 3-2.
In the third inning, the two teams traded the lead. In the top of the frame, the Gremlins tallied three runs thanks to a shallow blooper by Aydra Williamson and a double to the left center by Brunet.
However, their 5-3 lead was brief as the Bulldogs posted six runs in the bottom of the third. With bases loaded, Hancock’s shortstop Kaisa Salani hit a deep fly ball to the left that was misplayed, and it brought in two runs. As well, an RBI single off the bat of clean-up hitter Megan Pelto helped the Bulldogs rally.
In the top of the fifth it was the Gremlins’ time to rally as they posted a nine-run inning and an insurmountable lead to their first victory on the season. Two runs came in off a Jada Guilbault single up the middle. Then, with bases loaded, Mackenzie Ekdahl poked a line drive to the left center plating two more runs. She would go 3-3 in the first game with three RBIs as well. Before it was all over, outfielder Brynn Arko whacked a triple off the fence in the right center, and that brought in a run as well.
While the Bulldogs posted a five-run sixth inning to come within two of the Gremlins at 16-14, that’s as good as they got as the Gremlins pushed ahead with three more runs in the seventh to make it a 19-14 win.
HHS 203 290 3 – 19
HCHS 306 005 0 – 14
In the second game of the opener, the Bulldogs kept freshman Sadie Biekkola on the mound for her debut start. She relieved Kilpela in the fourth inning of the first game and led Hancock to a 10-7 win in a shortened four-inning second game.
“I was very pleased with the way Sadie pitched in her first start,” said Heinonen. “She threw strikes, and that’s what we need.”
Biekkola went the distance giving up seven runs, striking out four and walking just three.
Consistency was the name of the game for the Bulldogs as they scored two or more runs in each of the four innings to stay one step ahead of the Gremlins.
The Bulldogs led 5-1 going into the bottom of the second. However, Houghton tallied a five-run frame to take a brief lead. A hard-hit fly ball off the bat of Clea Ollanketo that fell between the left-center field brought in two runs. That was followed by an RBI single by Ekdahl and another RBI single by Mackenzie Collard.
The Bulldogs climbed back on top in the third with another three runs thanks to a strong plate appearances by Salani and Emilie Pierner who smacked a bases-clearing double to give Hancock the winning run.
Both coaches realized that there is a lot of fine tuning to be done after Friday’s matchups as playing outside is quite different than playing in their gyms.
“There is only so much you can do inside,” said Baker. “We have work to do, but this was a good start. At least it wasn’t snowing or too windy out. “
HCHS 233 2 – 10
HHS 150 1 – 7