EBEN - Two high school softball teams were looking for a little momentum heading into next week's district tournaments.
Marquette found it, while Superior Central has struggled just to get its players on the field this spring.
The visiting Redettes used a big third inning in each game to post 9-0 and 13-4 victories on Friday to finish their regular season at 18-11.
Superior Central's Molly Swajanen takes a cut at a pitch thrown by Marquette's Morgan Seibert, not pictured, during the first game of a high school softball doubleheader played in Eben on Friday. Swajanen had the Cougars' only hit in their 9-0 loss. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
But MSHS coach Paul Seibert wasn't all smiles as a pair of mercy-rule losses at Escanaba just a day earlier were still fresh in his memory.
"Definitely, on defense, I'm much happier with how we played (Friday)," Seibert said. "We've just got to fine-tune some things.
"Both of our pitchers were throwing the ball much better."
Temperatures in the 50s with just a light breeze allowed Marquette to go error-free on Friday after gusty winds on an already cold day wreaked havoc for his fielders in Delta County the day before.
"I hope today was a good turning point for us," said Redettes' sophomore Courtney Finkbeiner, who batted leadoff in place of another Courtney, senior Courtney LaFreniere, who has a knee injury. Finkbeiner came through with three hits, two of them doubles, in the nightcap.
Both Courtneys plus Friday callup Brooke Houle are slap hitters who Seibert hopes can provide instant offense against even the toughest pitchers.
"That gives us more ability to play small ball and create offense," he said.
With only four teams there, Marquette doesn't start play in its MHSAA District 1 tournament in Alpena until 10 a.m. next Saturday against Traverse City West.
Superior Central, meanwhile, will play at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Norway against Ishpeming in Division 4.
The Cougars have had trouble getting their players on the field due to the shortened spring.
"We've only had, I think, two practices outdoors this spring," SC coach Martha Verbrigghe said, adding the team often doesn't have a full contingent when track and field practices and meets, along with several academic events like Science Olympiad, conflict with the softball schedule.
Nevertheless, the three-win Cougars - possibly the smallest school in the Upper Peninsula to play softball - held their own for much of the day against the U.P.'s biggest school.
In the 9-0 opener, Marquette scored eight of its runs in the third inning.
"We just had that one bad inning," Verbrigghe said.
That's all it took as winning pitcher Morgan Seibert allowed just one hit - a double to the outfield fence by SC junior Molly Swajanen in the fifth - and two walks for the shutout. The Marquette senior struck out 11.
The third-inning rally began with a pair of walks and an error to load the bases before an RBI single by junior Amber Beaudry and a successful safety squeeze bunt by junior Hannah Johnson brought home the first two runs.
The bottom third of the Redettes' order - senior Whitney LaFave, Houle and senior Christian Nagelkirk - finished the rally with back-to-back-to-back run-scoring singles to blow the game wide open. LaFave finished the game with three hits.
In Game 2, MSHS scored six times in the third to turn a 5-1 advantage into a rout.
Two of junior Hannah Johnson's three hits began and concluded the Redettes' rally.
In between, several errors and seeing-eye hits kept the bases continually loaded until junior Senja Liimatta hit a line-drive screamer that SC sophomore second baseman Brooke Krysiak snagged, then caught a straying runner for a double play.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org