Warriors down Eskymos on 7th inning walk-off

CADILLAC – In Saturday’s regional semifinal between Escanaba and Remus Chippewa Hills, the script looked similar to the two team’s 2013 regional title game

Unfortunately for the Eskymos, the sequel had a different ending. Chippewa Hills scored the game’s lone run in the bottom of the seventh inning, winning on a walk-off single, 1-0.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of; we had a great season,” Escanaba head coach John LaMarch said. “It just wasn’t our day. Last year, we had one fall in against them and we moved on. This year, they capitalized and they moved on.”

In the 2013 regional title game, Escanaba captured the championship by scoring a run in the top of the seventh inning to eventually defeat Chippewa Hills, 5-4.

On Saturday, it was Chippewa Hills’ freshman Elle LaLonde who was the hero. But before LaLonde could send the Warriors to the regional title game, the Warriors had to get runners in scoring position, which both teams struggled with all day.

Chippewa Hills started its rally in the bottom of the seventh, when Brooke Lewandowski reached first on an Escanaba error. Katie Longtin came in as a courtesy runner for Lewandowski, and she eventually reached second as Escanaba failed to make the force out at second base. Cassidy Johnson would ground out for the first out of the inning. Then, Lottee Halm dropped down a bunt, but instead of risking a throw to first and allowing Longtin to potentially score from third, the Eskymos let Halm reach first and load the bases to set up a possible force out at home. This set the stage for the freshman LaLonde to be the hero.

LaLonde displayed the poise of that of a senior in the biggest moment of the game. She recorded her first hit of the day with a line drive single to right center field to score Longtin for the game-winning run.

“We practice wanting to be in that position,” Warriors head coach R.D. Denslow said about his team coming through in the clutch. “I make them want to be in that situation and right there, it paid off.”

In addition to it being the second straight year the two teams met, Escanaba and Chippewa Hills both pitched the same pitchers each team started last year. Cassidy Johnson for Remus Chippewa Hills, and Jaymie Frappier for Escanaba. Both started as sophomores, last season.

With each team getting a familiar look at each other, it was the two pitchers who seemed to benefit the most. Both Frappier and Johnson were dominant all day. LaLonde’s single was just the third hit of the game for Chippewa Hills off of Frappier. Rachel Lobert had the other two hits for the Warriors.

Frappier also managed to record three strikeouts and did not allow a walk.

“She pitched a great game,” LaMarch said about Frappier. “She pitched about as well as she has all season. She was in command of all her pitches. That’s a pretty good team over there and Jaymie held them at bay.”

Escanaba’s Syd Gafner recorded three of the four hits for the Eskymos. Mackenzie Leisner had the other hit for an Escanaba offense that was able to get a runner in scoring position at second three times, but was unable to get that one hit needed to score a run.

“We got a couple of opportunities,” LaMarch said. “We just couldn’t find a way to draw some contact and get a base hit.”

Johnson entered Saturday with 155 strikeouts for the Warriors, and added seven more against Escanaba. She also allowed just one walk.

Chippewa Hills (27-7) would later go on to defeat Ogemaw Heights, 5-4, to win the regional championship.

“I respect Escanaba’s softball program as much as anyone,” Denslow said. “They’re always tough. They’re always here year after year, and we felt like we belong here, too.”

Escanaba wraps up its season with a 20-13 record. The loss breaks the streak of two consecutive regional championships.

“It was a great game. We have nothing to be ashamed of,” LaMarch said. “We had a great season and we want to celebrate that.”