Hot bats, hot start

ESCANABA – As far as starting a tournament goes, the Escanaba Senior Girls couldn’t have asked for a better way to open up district play.

11 of the 12 girls collected hits for Escanaba, as they recorded 17 hits as a team and defeated Norway 15-2 in five innings, on Tuesday, at Lemerand Field.

“The bats were going,” Escanaba head coach Jamie Segorski said. “We hit the ball well; we got our runs down. It was a nice mixture of some nice long drive hitting and our short game; everything went well.”

All 11 girls who stepped to the plate recorded a hit. Aubrey Saunders, who is currently battling a wrist injury, had a designated hitter take her at-bats, in the lineup.

Playing as the away team, Escanaba struck first, in a big way.

After Callie Heller bunted for a base hit, two batters later, Becca Piron drilled a home run over the centerfield fence, to make it 2-0.

Escanaba would continue its rally, batting all the way through the order, to make it 5-0 after Katie Ross, Taylor Segorski and Sam Connors, each scored.

“Escanaba is a good team,” Norway head coach Bob Bal said. “They’re well-coached. We have to play a perfect game to even be in the game. That five-spot in the beginning of the game set the tone.”

Despite being down 5-0, Norway managed to strike back in the bottom of the third inning. Bobbi Hulce blasted a two-run home run to left centerfield that allowed her and Harlie Caster to score and make it a 5-2 game.

“Bobbi’s our leader; she’s a great hitter,” Bal said. “You can’t throw it by her. That’s just the type of girl she is.”

Hulce’s homer was the only mistake Escanaba pitcher Katie Ross made all afternoon. Ross allowed just three hits, one walk, and managed to tally three strikeouts, in four innings of work.

“She pitched very well. She was hitting her spots,” Jamie Segorski said. “She lost one pitch over the middle. It was supposed to be an outside pitch and she lost one over the middle and Bobbi Hulce made her pay for it. Other than that, Kate was spot-on all night long. She pitched a fantastic game to a good team.”

Just when it looked like Norway was beginning to make it game, the Escanaba bats came alive in the fourth inning, again, after going dormant for two innings.

Jericho McAlpine started the scoring surge with a single, and was advanced to third after Piron recorded a double. McAlpine eventually scored on a passed ball, and Piron was sent home after Ross hit a line drive for a double. A passed ball allowed Ross to reach third, and Kayla Vanportfliet reached first after drawing a walk. Then, Taylor Segorski drove in Ross after Segorski reached on a Norway error. J.J. Laviolette’s sacrifice fly to left field allowed Vanportfliet from third to score the fourth run for Escanaba. And just like that, it was 9-2.

“Sometimes when you jump on a team like that and get those quick five runs, you sometimes relax a little bit,” Jamie Segorski said. “When Hulce hit that shot to left center, it kind of woke us up and we came back in and our bats got after it, again.”

Escanaba would go on to score six more runs in its next at-bats, in the fifth inning. Sam Connors came in to relieve Ross in the bottom of the fifth inning, and got a one-two-three inning, to enforce the 10-run mercy rule and end the game.

“They’re good hitters; they’re solid,” Bal said. “You need to make the outs you can make. We had a bobble here, a bad throw here, and that leads to runs.”

Norway will now join Kingsford in the loser’s bracket, to decide who will face Escanaba in the district title game. Norway previously defeated Kingsford earlier in the day, 14-2, to earn the right to face Escanaba. The winner of the rematch will play Escanaba at 7 p.m. EDT at Lemerand Field, today.

“It always feels good to start a win off the tournament,” Jamie Segorski said. “It’s always a hard road coming from the bottom side of the bracket, so to stay on the top and minimize your games, is always a good thing.”