Rockets rolled in tough 3-game set

RAPID RIVER – Rapid River softball manager George Kanyuh had a plan for the season. Ease into the schedule before the top dogs came around. Unfortunately, the first month of the season was all but wiped out and here we are. The three-game set of Marquette, Escababa and Gladstone – a tour of rock-solid programs in Division 1, 2 and 3 respectively, was supposed to be a mid-season test. Now they fell in the early part of the Rockets schedule and perhaps not surprisingly, it wasn’t very pretty. The Rockets went 0-5 against those teams.

The Gladstone Braves mercifully ended what was a trying five-game set Tuesday afternoon, sweeping the doubleheader 7-2 and 15-1.

Though there was a flurry of fielding errors, the Rockets received some solid pitching from Neena Brockway going up against a veteran Braves lineup.

Brockway threw seven strong innings in the first game, striking out six and allowing four earned runs on eight hits. In the second game, she came on in relief of Savannah Stenlund, with the Rockets trailing 8-0. However, she held the Braves at bay, pitching two hitless innings before Gladstone’s offense solved her.

Kanyuh chalked the losses up to a learning experience, and noted that his team has yet to play a Division 4 school this season, which suits him just fine.

“It’s by design. I like playing the stronger teams. Those are competitive teams, no doubt and we have new personnel this year,” he said.

“Those first three doubleheaders of the year was our our learning curve and we lost all that opportunity. So we immediately throw these kids for the first time in their lives up against a Division 2 team in Boyne, and then we come back and it’s Negaunee, Escanaba, Marquette and Gladstone and I love that stuff, I want that, but I design a schedule that allows us to experiment and see what works before we go up against the warhorses.

“We’re not hanging our heads. The main goal is to get ready for districts. There will come a point where losing will be unacceptable, but right now it’s halfway through the season.”

The Braves (9-1) were simply dominant, as they continued to roll through their schedule. They racked up eight hits in the opener and got a red-hot start with a five-run first inning. Lexi Hongisto had two hits, including a solo home run to lead off the seventh inning. Alexis St. Cyr, Jess Beaudry, Morgan Kowalski, Alison Austin and Mikayla Depuydt each had RBI singles as well.

Christine Sharon went six innings, striking out seven and walking one while scattering six hits. Austin pitched the seventh.

In the nightcap, the Braves got another big jump as they tagged the Rockets for four runs in the first inning and another four runs in the second. The Rockets committed three errors in the two innings.

After adding two more runs in the fifth inning and holding a 10-0 lead, the Braves were one strike away from ending the game, but a throwing error allowed Averi Kanyuh to score from third base, forcing a sixth inning.

As Gladstone poured on five more runs with just one out in the top half of the inning, the officiating crew decided to end the inning prematurely. After the Rockets went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth, it was over.

“They hit well in both games. I’m happy with the hitting. It’s coming on strong and the defense has been there too. We bobbled a few tonight but basically we’re playing pretty good D,” said Braves manager Gerry Smith. His team had a couple errors of their own in the second game, as Smith said the large lead might have contributed to a loss of focus.

“Sometimes maybe you relax a little too much. You get soft, you get lazy,” he said. “I tell them you can’t do that. When you get out there, you have to continue going hard, and sometimes they don’t.”

Austin was solid on the mound for Gladstone, allowing just two hits and striking out six.

Averi Kanyuh, Hannah Kanyuh, Erika Schwartz and Stenlund each had two hits for the Rockets in the first game. Averi Kanyuh and Dominique Pavlat had the Rockets’ hits in the second game. Pavlat got her first two varsity hits in the doubleheader.

Gladstone travels to Negaunee Thursday while Rapid River plays at the Flint softball Invitational on Saturday.