Esky comes out on top of topsy-turvy title game

ESCANABA – There were times when all appeared to be calm, and there were times they were pretty nervous around the edges.

In the end, they were triumphant.

That pretty much sums up the wide range of emotions the Escanaba Girls’ Senior Little League (age 15-16) All-Stars endured Monday in a wild and wooly 11-8 triumph over Edwardsburg in the state title game at Lemerand Park.

The victory sends Esky to the Central Regional tournament in South Bend, where it begins play on Sunday.

“It’s always exciting to win a state championship game,” said Esky’s Anna Burch, who scored the last run on Jessica Gill’s single to centerfield in the sixth. “We went to a regional tournament last year (on Juniors). I’m sure our team will do good. We’re looking forward to going down there.”

Esky held leads of 5-0 and 7-2 in the contest. Edwardsburg, however, rallied to take an 8-7 lead on Lila Blough’s sacrifice fly to center in its half of the sixth.

“I had confidence in our team,” said shortstop Callie Heller, who had two of Esky’s 12 hits. “We’re a good hitting team, and I thought we’d get more insurance runs. Although, we were all nervous when they went ahead. We kept making mistakes and errors. We knew we had to calm down.”

Moments after Edwardsburg gained its only lead, Heller was shaken up in a collision while applying the tag to Becca Feirick at third on a throw from centerfielder Mackenzie Leisner.

“My hip was already bothering me,” Heller said after getting Esky out of that inning. “She knocked me down hard, but I knew I had to hang on to the ball.”

Heller then ignited Esky’s four-run sixth with a one-out infield single and scored the eventual tying run on a single by Becca Piron.

“Once I got on base, I just wanted to score,” said Heller. “I just took it one base at a time.”

Winning pitcher Jaymie Frappier then retired three of four Edwardsburg hitters in the seventh to preserve the win.

The game ended with Frappier striking out Gracie Hull.

“At first, I thought ‘oh my God, we finally did it,'” said Heller, who needed to leave the game in the seventh. “There was a lot of relief in our dugout when we got the lead back. We knew then we were going to win it. It was a great game. We’re very happy with the outcome.”

The teams combined for six errors, with Esky committing four.

Burch, however, also never lost faith in Esky’s ability to come back from its lone deficit.

“We knew we could still win it, and the four runs we scored in the sixth inning gave us more confidence,” she said. “There was definitely a sense of relief when we came back. When it was 7-2, we got a little too relaxed. We thought we had it in the bag, and I think that’s when all the errors came. We knew we had to tighten things up (on defense). We also knew they were a good hitting team and many of us were nervous when they got close (within 7-6 in the fifth).”

Now that they’ve taken care of their home field, the Esky girls, now representing MIchigan, will head south for further competition.