GLADSTONE - The Gladstone Braves softball team is MHSAA Division 3 district champions for the 14th consecutive year. At the end of the day, it can add one more year to the banner that hangs on the concession stand.
But Gladstone (23-2) may savor this one a little more, because it came very close to not being a reality.
Rosalie Anderson and the Negaunee Miners gave the Braves all they could handle and more in a semifinal game that went 11 innings, before Gladstone escaped with a 5-0 victory. Gladstone then mercied Manistique 12-0 in five innings for the district title. The Emeralds defeated Gwinn 16-2 in their semifinal game.
Negaunee’s Rosalie Anderson works on the mound during the eighth inning of Friday’s MHSAA Division 3 softball district semifinal against Gladstone at Gladstone High School. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Keith Shelton)
"Oh my goodness," exclaimed Braves manager Ashley Hughes. "I always say we never know what to expect when we get to the field and today was no different."
Through 10 innings, it was a pitchers duel between Gladstone's Christine Sharon and Anderson. Each team had one hit going into extra innings before things began to pick up.
Negaunee got its best opportunity in the bottom of the 10th. With two outs Jayda Johnson singled, and was subbed for Emily Grant, who advanced to second and third on passed balls. That brought up Rosalie Anderson who launched a high fly ball along the left field line. The ball would have dropped and scored the winning run, if it hadn't fallen inches foul.
Sharon recovered to strike out Anderson on a full count, ending the inning.
International tiebreaking rules went into effect to start the 11th. Gladstone began the inning with Hongisto at second base. Jess Beaudry got on base via an error and Morgan Kowalski was issued a walk to load the bases with no outs. Becker then executed a suicide squeeze bunt and hit safely to first, scoring Hongisto for the first lead of the game. Lauren Parrett later followed with a single and Sharon capped things off with a high fly ball to right that wasn't caught. That scored three runs and cleared the bases and the Braves led 5-0.
Negaunee went down quietly in the bottom of the inning. as Adena Anderson flied out. The runner left second base and was thrown out at third to complete a double play, and Lauren Anderson struck out to end the game.
For Negaunee coach Randy Carlson, the close game was validation that the Miners have come a long way.
"It was that close and when you get two good teams battling, that's what it is, a game of inches. It takes that one break and we didn't get it, but I'm so proud of the way the girls battled," he said.
"The girls left their legacy. For the girls coming up, this is something to live up to and continue what these girls have started. Hopefully we can just keep building from here."
Anderson struck out six and allowed four hits and five walks.
"I said going in, I wouldn't want another pitcher in the state of Michigan other than Rosalie, and she came through exactly like I knew she would," said Carlson.