Escanaba softball moves on to MHSAA Division 2 title game

EAST LANSING — This year’s trip to the Division 2 semifinals was not like the others for the Escanaba softball team.

“Our last two teams were great teams and we suffered some bad hops,” Eskymos’ coach Jamie Segorski said. “Today we got good hops. We benefited from those hops.”

And, as a result, the Eskymos will play for a state title on Saturday.

Escanaba, which came to East Lansing hitting the ball well for power, scratched a couple of runs across and let ace sophomore pitcher Gabi Salo do the rest.

The result was a 2-0 win over Eaton Rapids and a berth in Saturday’s Division 2 final against South Haven, which flattened Dearborn Divine Child 14-0 in five innings in the other semifinal.

Early on, it looked as though the Greyhounds might break through against Salo, who allowed two hits in each of the first two innings while Eaton Rapids pitcher Grace Lehto was perfect through three innings.

Lexi Chaillier broke through for the Eskymos with a leadoff double in the fourth.

“I knew I had to be a leadoff hitter and just get on base,” she said. “That’s usually how our team works. Once one person goes, the next person goes, and that’s what happened.”

Chaillier moved to third on a wild pitch, and Segorski called for a squeeze bunt from Claire McInerney.

It was nearly disastrous. McInerney popped the ball up to Eaton Rapids first baseman McKenzie Anderson, who fired to third in an attempt to pick off Chaillier. But her throw was wild and Chaillier sprinted home with the only run the Eskymos would need.

“We were a little lucky in that situation,” Segorski said. “But we took advantage of the luck, and that’s what the game is.”

Salo, meanwhile, was shutting the Greyhounds offense down, retiring the last 17 batters in order.

“We didn’t know much about them,” she said of Eaton Rapids. “We heard a couple things, but we approached it like any other game. We attacked the ball and I kept throwing my best pitches.”

Segorski had a scouting report on the Greyhounds and put it to good use.

“We knew if we pinched the corners in real hard it would take their short game away, and it did,” he said. “They live a lot on the short games, and we took that away.”

The Eskymos added a run in the sixth. Taylor Gauthier, who had doubled in the fourth, tripled to right field and scored on an infield single by Maddy Griffin.

The run allowed Escanaba to exhale, at least a little.

“I knew we wouldn’t have a problem getting the next three outs,” Chaillier said. “But it was more of a reassuring run.”

As a result, Escanaba is in a state championship game for the first time since 2003, when the Eskymos lost in the Division 1 final to a dominant Brighton team, 3-0.

“It means a ton to our program and our school and Escanaba and Delta County, for that matter,” Segorski said. “It’s a great feeling for them to be able to come down here and keep everything in check. To stay solid fundamentally is pretty fantastic and a credit to the kids.”

A sizable contingent of fans was on hand to root the Eskymos home, including, Segorski said, some familiar faces from Gladstone.

“It was great to see them,” he said. “Having them here and cheering for us was refreshing, and we’re going to return the favor for them (today in baseball).”

In the meantime, the Eskymos (30-3) will rest and prepare for Saturday’s game with South Haven (32-8).

“One more game,” Chaillier said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to pull it off.”

Then again, if Escanaba can repeat Thursday’s effort with pitching, timely hitting and a break here and there, hope may not be part of the equation.