Gladstone overcomes mistakes to pummel Iron Mountain North

GLADSTONE – Gladstone junior girls head coach Duane Hardwick was skeptical how his team would play in its first game. What he got, was a mixed bag of results in an 11-1 five-inning win over Iron Mountain North, on Thursday, at Howes Field.

The good? Gladstone accumulated nine hits and displayed the ability to manufacture clutch runs with two outs. The bad? Despite allowing just the one run, Gladstone committed five errors on defense.

“First game, first game jitters,” Hardwick said. “We had some questions (coming in). The girls played good all year, it’s just the chemistry cause a lot of girls haven’t played together, before.”

The chemistry on offense seemed to click, as the majority of Gladstone’s offense came in the second inning, where they put up seven runs, including five that came with two outs.

The two big hits came from Taylor Hunter, who knocked in Jaden Schwartz and Serina Sinnaeve for a two-run RBI single. Then, it was Richelle Vandeville who also recorded a two-run RBI single, putting Gladstone up 8-0.

“They’ve been hitting the ball well all year from whatever team they came from,” Hardwick said. “A lot of the times, you get those key hits with nobody on base and we were just lucky we had people on base to capitalize on that.”

For Iron Mountain North, they had their chances offensively. They just weren’t able to take advantage of them-like Gladstone-as they stranded nine girls on base. Seven of those girls stranded were in scoring position during the time the final out was made.

“We left girls on base every inning,” Iron Mountain North head coach Dean VanLoon said. “That hurts when you do that. They were able to come back after we got a couple girls on base and shut us down.

“Just one more hit or one more error on their side and it’s that close. We held our own against their team; it was fun. The girls were hitting good; they weren’t afraid to swing at the ball.”

Iron Mountain North managed to tally four hits, but since they were putting the ball in play, they forced Gladstone to play defense, where they weren’t always sound.

“A lot of our girls haven’t played on grass in three years, so it’s a little different than playing on a normal skin field,” Hardwick said. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but they recovered.

“We had a couple key errors, but the girls handled it well. Sometimes you’re worried about them breaking down after an error and having the snowball effect with more errors on top of that, but they recovered well, and we talked about that. We’re definitely going to have to cut down on the errors.”

In the fifth inning, Gladstone put the 10-run mercy rule into effect and ended the game. With Schwartz on second, Sinnaeve launched a deep line drive that rolled all the way to the centerfield fence. She managed to round all the bases and record an inside the park home run to make it 11-1.

Gladstone’s Jenna Steinhoff got the win on the mound. She pitched three innings and allowed no runs, two hits, two walks, and struck out five batters. Amber Lenards came in for relief in the fourth inning and pitched two innings and gave up one unearned run, on two hits and one walk. She managed to tally two strikeouts.

“It seemed they pitched better with more pressure on them cause it seemed like they didn’t find that strike zone until two runners were on base,” Hardwick said. “I trust in the pitchers; they’ve been working hard. They know what they’re doing so we pretty much let them play their own game.”

Gladstone’s win sets up a matchup with Escanaba, tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Howes Field. Hardwick knows that his team will have to limit its mistakes if they want to come out on top against their rivals.

“Escanaba is going to be a lot tougher,” he said. “They’re not going to give you anything. They’re going to make you earn everything. We’re going to have to play the best we can and cut down on any errors.”