MARQUETTE - One bad inning cost the Marquette Senior High School softball team a chance at a doubleheader sweep on Monday afternoon.
Rapid River was shut out for the other 13 innings, but it was an eight-run first inning in the nightcap that helped the Rockets overcome a 4-0 loss in the opener with an 8-3 victory in Game 2.
"We beat them for 13 innings, but we just had a little letdown to start that second game," MSHS coach Paul Seibert said. "Overall, I'm happy with how we played. We're making great strides.
Rapid River shortstop Ashleigh Monticello jumps up to make a catch as Marquette’s Courtney LaFreniere slides into second base during the first game of a doubleheader on Monday at Hurley Field in Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"Rapid River will get after you eventually. It's no accident they're one of the best teams in the (Upper Peninsula)."
The split left the Class D Rockets at 16-2, while Class A Marquette improved to a modest 8-12.
Sophomore Hannah Johnson earned the first-game shutout on a two-hitter, but then was inexplicably roughed up to start Game 2.
"I asked the girls if they wanted to stay with Hannah, and it was pretty obvious their answer was 'Yes,'" Seibert said. "And I figured, if it isn't broke, why fix it?"
After the Rockets' Ashley Hough and Ashleigh Monticello got the ball through the infield to start the second game, RR coach George Kanyuh resorted to a different style of play.
"We let the girls swing away in the first game, but when we saw Johnson was going to come back out to start the second game, I knew we had to change something," Kanyuh said. "So we switched to playing 'small ball.'"
That meant back-to-back sacrifice bunt attempts by RR's No. 3 and 4 batters, Heather Sanderson and Neena Brockway, which turned into an infield hit and a two-base throwing error by Johnson.
And two runs.
Another bounder through the infielder prompted Seibert to call on his daughter, junior Morgan Seibert, to take over on the rubber.
But even the Redettes' ace couldn't stop the bleeding before two more big hits produced another five runs. It was punctuated by Hough's second hit of the inning, an inside-the-park homer on a ball that rolled all the way to fence just right of straightaway centerfield.
After that, however, Seibert settled down and allowed just two more hits over the next five innings.
But the damage was done, even though the Redettes rallied in the sixth for three runs. It was an inning where six of the first seven batters either reached base or knocked in a run.
MSHS kept the pressure on in the seventh as leadoff batter Courtney LaFreniere got her fourth hit of the day and third that didn't leave the infield.
But she strayed just a bit too far off first when Johnson hit a line shot to RR shortstop Neena Brockway, who fired to first baseman Shannon Wolf for a double play.
Seibert then hit a routine grounder to shortstop to end the game.
Marquette did the scratch hitting early in the first game, getting three singles in the first on a LaFreniere bunt, a Seibert grounder that found a hole in the infield and a Katherine Spehalski pop up that evaded four fielders just behind second base.
Even a second-inning double play turned by the Rockets wasn't enough to prevent a Marquette run as Whitney LaFave cracked a triple to deep center and LaFreniere skipped a shot down the line despite the third baseman holding LaFave on base.
Johnson didn't allow a baserunner until Rockets No. 9 hitter Averi Kanyuh found a hole on the left side of the infield in the third. The only other runner she allowed, Savannah Stenlund who reached on an infield single in fifth, was quickly erased on a double play.
"Hannah pitched so well," Paul Seibert said. "She hit almost every target I gave her. She hit the inside corner, the outside corner and changed speeds well."
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.