Eskymos take care of business

PETOSKEY – In a business-like effort, the Escanaba Eskymos softball team went to work Saturday. Their big goals lay beyond the Division 2 district title, but there was still a task at hand, and Escanaba proved up to it.

The Eskymos got to Cheboygan pitcher Macey Charboneau early in the title game, en route to a 7-2 victory. In the semifinal, Escanaba rolled past Kingsford 7-1.

“It’s really exciting and very satisfying,” said Esky manager John LaMarch. “We had a good lead and that takes the pressure off of the kids and the coach.”

Cheboygan took an early 1-0 in the top of the first when Aspen WIlliams led off with a double. Bridget Blaskowski followed with a single and Charboneau singled Williams home.

Esky pitcher Sam Connor got out of the inning without further damage by striking out Carrie Bongard amd getting Autmn Tallman to ground out.

In the bottom of the first Charboneau got off to a slow start when she walked Callie Heller and Mackenzie Leisner back-to-back. Becca Piron then ripped a two-RBI double to put the Eskymos in business with a 2-1 lead. Jaymie Frappier then hit safely with a bunt that scored Piron for a 3-1 lead.

That would be all Escanaba needed with Sam Connor on the mound. Although Cheboygan got its hits in, Connor was able to keep composed and with the help of her defense, prevent the runner from scoring.

“It all just built on momentum,” said Piron, who played an excellent game at catcher. “We needed some momentum at the beginning and I knew it. I knew I had to have a hit there (in the first inning) no matter what.”

Cheboygan would get nine hits off Connor, but only scored two runs. Connor struck out five, walked none and hit one batter.

“Sam pitched amazingly,” said Piron. “I’m so proud of her, it’s unreal. Our outfield, infield, everything was solid. We did a great job.”

Aspen Williams was perhaps the Chiefs’ most impressive player. She had a double and a triple and displayed aggressiveness on the basepaths, diving headfirst for steal attempts.

“Aspen is a good ballplayer, a Division 1 ball player,” said Cheboygan manager Mike Barber. “I thought we could have hit better than we did today, we have been all year. Our timing was a little bit off, but I credit Escanaba. They made the plays and they played better than us today.

“When we needed the big hit, we couldn’t get it today. We’d always get a runner on with one or two outs and we just couldn’t get the second hit.”

Escanaba struck hard in the fourth inning, when with two outs, Syd Gafner reached first on a fielding error. JJ Laviolette followed with a walk. Ashley Cook then launched a high fly ball to right field that wasn’t caught, allowing two runs to score. Callie Heller followed with a base hit to score Cook and Esky led 6-1.

Cheboygan led a brief rally in the bottom of the inning. After Williams led off with a triple, Blaskowski singled her home.

In the sixth, Cheboygan’s Aleeza Bergstrom led off with a triple and LaMarch made a change reliving Connor with freshman Katie Ross. With no outs and a runner at third, it seemed a tall order, but Ross impressively struck out the next three batters in order, getting out of the inning.

“Sammy threw an awesome game and she did everything we needed,” LaMarch said. “We’ve been trying to get aht combination going for at least two weeks. Today it worked out and Katie showed us what the difference is in speed, and that really takes time for a team to catch up. It worked to perfection for us today.”

Ross gave Cheboygan no life in the bottom of the seventh, striking out Blaskowski and getting Bongard and Charboneau to fly out to seal the victory.

“It’s really amazing, because Katie being a freshman, you don’t know what you’re going to get sometimes,” said LaMarch. “I guess the stage can get bigger for her yet. We’re thrilled to death with what she did, we’re excited.”

And as for Piron, She helped throw baserunners out, she caught two pop flys near the plate and didn’t allow a passed ball.

“Becca Piron had a monster day,” said LaMarch. “Defensively she was the best player on the field. She was in control and threw great. She just had superior hustle, it was everything you could want in any of your players.”

Heller was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk to lead Esky at the plate.

At the other end of the field, Charboneau struck out five, allowed six hits and walked six.

“She threw very well,” said Piron. “I got her deep on a few counts, but she was good, I have to say. She got a lot of us.”

Cheboygan committed two errors, both costly and leading to runs. Barber said that didn’t take away from Charboneau’s performance.

“This was Macey’s first game back since she tore her quad, and I thought she threw great,” he said. “She was a little pumped up in the first inning and walked two, and that kind of hurt us, but she threw well, we just didn’t help her on defense.”

Against Kingsford, Esky racked up eight hits. Heller and Gafner each had two. Frappier earned the win, going six innings and allowing four hits and a walk while striking out five. Ross pitched the seventh, striking out three and allowing two hits.

Escanaba (20-12) now heads to the Division 2 regional in Cadillac where it will face Remus Chi