Prep softball: Eskymos will face Vikings in quarterfinal rematch

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – One all-stater begets another. When you’re rich, you’re rich and the Saginaw Swan Valley Vikings are rich, in talent that is.

The Escanaba Eskymos are getting another shot at Swan Valley after falling to the Vikings in last year’s MHSAA Division 2 state quarterfinal. That was an error filled 12-1 disaster, in which no Eskymo felt they played their best game.

Today, once again in the state quarterfinal, the Eskymos (19-7) hope to give a better performance against the Vikings (27-9). For one, they are focused on the here and now, not on the past, or the future for that matter.

“The thing about this team, we haven’t looked very far ahead. It started on the very first day after we picked the team, we talked about our goals for the season. We talk about taking care of the things we can control,” said Eskymos eighth-year manager John LaMarch. “Talking about Bailey Park (final four) is not in control. The best team doesn’t always win. That’s the sport and you have to learn from it. We’re focused on this one game. We’re anxious and excited and we feel very fortunate to be where we’re at.

“There’s something to be said for being the underdog and right now I’d have to say we’re a pretty clear underdog,” continued LaMarch. “But this is a different team than last year and we feel we’re better in a lot of spots. It’s not unfamiliar territory – we’ve played at Central Michigan University. In football, there’s the saying any given Sunday. For us, it’s why not us? We play hard and work just as hard as anyone else.”

Both teams have shown a flair for the dramatic to get to this point.

Swan Valley won their district final 5-4 over Mount Pleasant when Morgan Stadler ripped a 2-run single in the top of the seventh. The Vikings then tore through the regional, beating Bangor John Glenn 10-0 and Goodrich 9-1.

Escanaba was lifted by Michelle LaFave’s seventh inning walk-off hit against Tawas in their regional final on Saturday.

“It was tremendous excitement,” said LaMarch. “I told people afterwards, I felt sick to my stomach. It was very stressful, but a lot of fun.”

Swan Valley graduated all-state pitching ace Mackenzie Boehler after the 2012 season. She shut down the Eskymos, allowing just one hit through five innings in last year’s state quarterfinal. Now she is doing the same thing at Wayne State University where she went 15-3 this season as a freshman.

The Vikings now sport another all-state pitcher in junior Courtney Reinhold. In the regional she threw 12 total innings, allowing one run and six hits with 15 total strikeouts. She also ripped a 2-run homer in the title game as the Vikings won their third-straight regional championship.

This is Escanaba’s second consecutive quarterfinal berth and the team is pumped to get another shot at the Vikings and Reinhold.

“We’ve seen her. I told the girls Jaymie Frappier greeted her with a rocket to left field last year. We stole a base and Codi Jenshak hit a sac-fly. We feel pretty good about that,” said LaMarch. “We’re a different team and this is a new year. We’re excited for a new opportunity to prove to everyone how good we really are.”

The Eskymos seem to be relishing the underdog role, knowing anything can happen in a single game.

“It’s who shows up,” said LaMarch. “I feel pretty good about where our kids are at. They’re loose, happy and they’ve been playing pretty good ball. We’re excited about our opportunity.”