Braves prevail for 11th straight softball district title

GLADSTONE Saturday’s Division 3 district championship between the Gladstone Braves and the Negaunee Miners began as a chess match, going through nearly four full innings without any runs to speak of. However, the Braves started to make their move in the bottom of the fourth and marched to a 4-0 softball victory.

The stalemate ended when Jordan Kowalski of the Braves hit the first pitch offered to her by Negaunee pitcher Rosalie Anderson and earned herself a base hit. The Miners retired the next two batters, but Alison Austin got the ball rolling again with an RBI double, pushing home the first run of the ball game.

Grace Zimmerman followed it up with a single that allowed Austin to score, giving Gladstone a 2-0 lead.

Sadie Strasser scored as the result of a passed ball that ended up in the press area along the base line in left field. The umpire ruled it a dead ball, which awarded Strasser the right to advance and score the Braves’ third run.

“All the years I’ve been coaching, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen one go in there and not come back out,” Braves coach Gerry Smith said.

Kowalski took the next at bat, belting a line-drive home run that smacked off the windshield of a fan watching the game from the right field fence. It was her second homer since returning to the team from an injury, resulting in a 4-0 advantage for the Braves that they would cling to until the end.

“It’s big to have her back,” Smith said.

He also said that the game was played very tightly for the first few innings, but then his girls seemed to loosen up and start putting the ball in play.

“They did a good job,” Smith added. Negaunee’s pitcher kept us off balance really well today though.”

Austin got the victory from the mound, striking out three with two walks and giving up three hits.

“I thought we played a really great game,” said Miners coach John Anderson. “Gladstone has a great team, and any time we can keep it within one swing of the bat, I’m pretty happy.”

Negaunee (19-12) defeated Houghton 1-0 in the semifinal game Saturday morning to advance to the title game. Anderson said that they hadn’t played in nearly two weeks and it showed in game one.

“Our bats were a little slow,” he said, “but they came alive in the title game. It didn’t show in the final score, but we had a lot more quality at-bats.”

Anderson stated that the Miners will lose only one senior in the offseason. Ordinarily, that would make things look much better; but this one senior in particular, Ashley Anderson, is both his daughter and one of the team leaders on the field.

“She is pretty much our general,” he added.

Anderson, Amanda Washnock, and Rachael Ring all had one hit apiece for the Miners. Christine Sharon led the Braves with three hits, while Austin had two and Kowalski had a single in addition to her home run.

Gladstone (26-1) advances to play in the regional tournament on Saturday.