Braves fend off Rockets in sweep

GLADSTONE – Timely hits made a difference for the Gladstone Braves Tuesday as they swept to 8-0 and 11-4 softball victories over the Rapid River Rockets.

That was especially evident in the bottom of the third inning of the nightcap when the Braves (12-2) scored six times to take an 8-3 lead.

Gladstone collected five hits in the third, including Mikayla Depuydt’s two-run single to leftfield.

Christina Sharon started the inning by reaching base on a fielding error. Sadie Strasser followed with an RBI single along the leftfield line and Lexi Hongisto added an RBI double to left moments later.

“Lexi had three solid hits (all doubles) in this game,” said Braves’ manager Ashley Hughes. “She has been real consistent and has hit the ball hard the past couple weeks. We definitely came up with some big hits in the third inning.”

Hongisto’s double along the leftfield line put the Braves on the board in the first and Morgan Kowalski drove in the second run on a single to left.

Kowalksi also finished with three hits, including an RBI single to left in the seventh.

“Morgan had been struggling at the plate a little, so this is a great boost for her,” said Hughes.

Rapid River did all its scoring in the third, trimming its deficit to 2-1 on Aslynn Brockway’s single to center.

The Rockets tied the score on Kendyl Miller’s ouble to left and gained their only lead on Savannah Stenlund’s single to center.

“We had a good third inning,” said Rockets’ manager George Kanyuh. “We started hitting their pitcher (Depuydt), then they brought Sharon back in. We didn’t hit very well against her (Sharon) in the first game, but did a little better against her in the second game. They (Gladstone) also got some big hits.”

Hughes also acknowledged Rapid River’s effort in the third.

“They challenged us for sure,” she said. “We always tell the girls to never take anyone lightly. Rapid River had a solid third inning. Our girls knew it was do or die in our half of the third. They were told to be focused at the plate.

“When you lose a lead like that, you can either sit back on your heels or take the momentum back. It showed a lot of leadership for our girls to come back the way they did.”

Sharon and Bridget Becker added two hits each off losing pitcher Erika Schwartz, who struck out four, walked one and allowed 12 hits.

The Rockets (8-5) collected 10 hits, including two apiece by Stenlund and Schwartz.

Rapid River, which split a twinbill in Marquette Monday, is entered in Saturday’s Flint Kearsley Invitational tournament.

“Taking the last two nights in consideration, we faced some of the best competition in the U.P., said Kanyuh. “Although we didn’t go 4-0, we held our own. My hope is this all bodes well in preparing us for the type of competition we’ll face at the end of the year in the district tournament. Playing teams of this caliber exposes your weaknesses and lets you know what you have to work on. On the positive side, you also get to see what’s working.”

Sharon fanned five, walked two and scattered five hits in the opener.

Jessica Beaudry, Hongisto, Strasser and Kowalski had two hits each for the Braves, who host Negaunee in a doubleheader Thursday.

Rhiley Hubert led the Rockets with two hits. Stenlund absorbed the loss, striking out three and walking three.