Escanaba girls state D2 softball champs
EAST LANSING — And now they are champions.
There wasn’t really much of a question, not after the Escanaba softball team scored in the first inning to give Gabi Salo the only run support she would need.
Salo struck out 11 of the first 13 hitters and 13 overall and Dakota Cloutier belted a pair of doubles and drove in two runs as the Eskymos won their first state title on Saturday, beating South Haven 5-0 in the Division 2 state championship game at Michigan State University
“It feels great,” Escanaba coach Jamie Segorski said. “This is our third time here, and finally we broke through and won a game and we finished it off. The first group in the history of Escanaba softball that has come here and won their last game as an Eskymo. It’s a great feeling.”
The last pitch had its own bit of drama. Salo froze South Haven’s Anna Bocock with a changeup, and things came to a stop for a full second before the umpire called her out.
“I thought it was a strike,” Cloutier said. “I was like, ready, and he didn’t call it. But then he called it and I was like, ‘Yes! That’s my girl! My girl Gab pulled through.'”
Then again, that’s what the Eskymos have come to expect from their sophomore ace, who has committed to play at the University of Wisconsin.
“I’ve never seen her off,” Segorski said. “She’s a gamer. The bigger the game, the better she plays. It’s a credit to her and all the work she puts in. Nobody works harder.”
Salo worked on her changeup during Friday’s off day and put it to good use on Saturday.
“She got here (Saturday) and the changeup was spot-on,” Segorski said. “When you have a pitcher who is pumping it in there at 66 miles an hour and the next pitch is 42, all you can do is guess and hope you get lucky.”
The Rams (32-9) managed only three hits off Salo and had never advanced a runner beyond second base.
The game got off to an unusual start, with a rain delay that came two pitches into South Haven’s second at-bat in the top of the first inning.
During the delay, which lasted about 30 minutes, the Eskymos turned on the portable speaker they had in the dugout and started dancing.
“We were dancing and having fun, staying loose,” Cloutier said. “Nothing really fazes us.”
The unflappable Eskymos put on “The Electric Slide,” and soon both teams were doing the line dance in their dugouts.
“We started, and they followed,” Cloutier said, smiling.
“We did, obviously,” she said, laughing..