Eskymos topple Chiefs

ESCANABA – Sophomore Kayla VanPortfliet enjoyed a successful varsity pitching debut Friday night as the Escanaba Eskymos posted a 10-3 softball victory over the Cheboygan Chiefs in the second game of a doubleheader

The Eskymos also won the opener 2-0.

VanPortfliet pitched six innings, striking out three, walking one and allowing three runs on five hits.

“I was nervous at first, but I knew I had a great infield and outfield behind me,” said VanPortfliet, who gave up a two-run homer to Brooke Beaubein in the opening frame. “Our catcher (Becca Piron) is real good at calming us down and making sure we’re okay.”

Beaubein’s shot to leftfield opened the scoring.

The Eskymos (12-10) quickly tied the score in its half of the first.

Sophomore shortstop Callie Heller led off with a walk and trimmed Esky’s deficit in half on Piron’s double along the leftfield line. Heller then tied the count on a fielder’s choice.

“We definitely had some momentum going when we tied the score,” said VanPortfliet. “We had some great hits. Everybody hit good in the second game.”

Esky finished with 11 hits, including seven in the third frame when it scored seven times.

Second-baseman Alyssa Polequin led off the third with a double to left and the Eskymos seemed to feed off that.

Heller then gave Esky a 3-2 lead on an infield single and junior third-baseman Michelle LaFave’s double made it 5-2 a short time later.

LaFave gave the Eskymos a 6-2 cushion on a passed ball. A fielding error led to another score and Polequin’s two-run single to left made it 9-2.

Cheboygan (10-8) scored its third run in the sixth by taking advantage of back-to-back errors by Heller. The first miscue took place when Corrie Bongard’s grounder took a bounce and struck Heller in the throat.

“You get hit by the ball a lot at shortstop,” said Heller. “I was spitting up blood. It makes it hard to swallow when you get hit in the throat. It’s not the best feeling in the world. I wasn’t ready for the next ball that was hit to me.”

Heller recovered from the miscues admirably, fielding Aleeza Bergstrom’s grounder on the next play and firing a perfect throw to first-baseman Jenn Koish for Cheboygan’s first out in the sixth.

Piron and Gregoire finished with three hits apiece, with Gregoire’s third drving in the final run in the sixth. Polequin had two.

Beaubein, who worked three innings, absorbed the loss. She fanned one, walked two and gave up nine runs on nine hits.

“We made a couple errors and they found the holes,” said Cheboygan manager Mike Barber. “The floodgates opened. Against a good team like this, you have to make the plays. They got into a rhythm and we were back on our heels. We were waiting for someone to step up. Give credit to their pitcher. She kept the ball down low and we were off balance.”

The Chiefs had six hits, led by senior Aspen Williams with three.

“Aspen is our best player,” said Barber. “We’re a young team and we keep telling the kids we’re going to have some growing pains. We’ll be okay.”

Jaymie Frappier pitched the final inning of both games, retiring the Chiefs in order in the nightcap.

Sam Connor took the win in the opener. She struck out three, walked one and scattered five hits through six frames. Frappier then whiffed two and hit a batter in the seventh.

“Both of our starting pitchers did very well, ” said Esky coach Gary Salo. “Sam has been very consistent. She has defiinitely been a workhorse for us. It was great to see Kayla get her feet wet at the varsity level and we wanted to keep Jaymie in the fold. Lately, we’ve been playing a lot better defensively. Our communication is improving day in and day out.”

Esky scored both of its runs in the third. Williams and Bongard had two hits each for the Chiefs.

“Our pitchers were doing great in the first game,” said Heller. “Becca also did a good job. We’re a good hitting team. We have some tough games tomorrow (today), but we know we can battle and stay with anybody. Alyssa (Polequin) said it felt great to start us off with that double in the third inning of the second game. Everybody stepped up and did good.”

Both teams resume in today’s Esky Challenge.

The Eskymos were hosting Marshfield, Wis. at 10 a.m. and will face Rapid River at 2 and Neenah, Wis. at 4.

Cheboygan faced Sault Ste. Marie at 10, folllowed by games against Marquette at noon and Rapid River at 4.

Rapid River was to open at 10 this morning against Negaunee.