U.P. All-Star softball games set for Thursday

Negaunee's Kenzie Karki, right, slides safely into second base as Westwood shortstop Natalie Prophet catches a relay during a high school softball doubleheader played at National Mine on Monday, May 6, 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

NEGAUNEE — State champions have been crowned and the official high school softball season has come to an end.

However, you will have one more chance to see the star senior players of the Upper Peninsula on Thursday when Negaunee hosts the U.P. All-Star Softball games at LaCombe Field.

31 players from 10 U.P. high school teams will compete in the doubleheader event, comprised of the North team and the South team.

The Miners have the strongest showing on the North side featuring seven players. Hancock, Ishpeming bring three players to the table while Marquette and Westwood will showcase two players each.

The North will be coached by Negaunee head coach Randy Carlson and Bulldogs head coach Randy Heinonen.

The South team consists of five players from Bark River-Harris, three from Norway and reigning MHSAA Division 2 state champion Escanaba, two from Rapid River and one from Manistique.

South side coaches feature Knights head coach Bob Bal and Broncos head coach Jen Goodrich.

Last year’s All-Star festivities were held at Norway’s Marion Park under a similar doubleheader format, which the team’s split by scores of 13-9 and 15-7.

The event is extremely informal and meant to be fun for all involved according to Carlson, who jumped on the opportunity to host this year’s games.

“It’s basically just kind of whoever wants to host it can,” he said. “(Marquette head coach) Paul Seibert called me up and asked me if we were interested in hosting it. We have seven seniors on our team, so I thought it would work out well.

“Whoever hosts it kind of gets to set it up however they want. Our numbers this year were even and close, so we went with a North and South format. The North has 17 players and the South has 14. We haven’t decided if we’ll bat the whole order yet, but it’ll be a fun thing primarily.”

There won’t be a shortage of talent at the games either. Negaunee’s senior class helped lead the Miners to a 29-7 record and its second consecutive Division 3 state quarterfinal appearance this year before falling to Standish-Sterling Central 2-1 in Gaylord last week.

Abby Nelson was part of Negaunee’s one-two punch in the pitcher’s circle this year, while Hannah Voskuhl was a standout superstar at the plate. Voskuhl earned all-state honorable mention last season, and was one of the top players in the WestPAC/Mid-Peninsula Conference this year.

Joining Nelson and Voskuhl in the North lineup will be fellow Miners Cassidy Orr, Kaleigh Duncan, MacKenzie Karki, MyKenna Kontio and Payton Drew.

Westwood also had a strong year with Katie Wiljanen and Raija Stille being the only seniors on a young Patriots team. Westwood finished with a record of 19-5 falling to Negaunee in the district round. Wiljanen and Stille will both appear in the games for the North side.

Hancock seniors include Delanie Heinonen, Emma Almquist and Maddie Johnson. The Bulldogs claimed a Division 4 district title this season before losing to Rudyard in the regional round.

While Marquette and Ishpeming both struggled this season, the Redettes and Hematites each bring their share of senior power to the North lineup as well.

Lexi Trombley and Taylor Myers will play for Marquette. Despite the Redettes falling 9-2 to Petoskey in the Division 2 district round this year, Trombley was named to the all-tournament team.

The Hematites fell to L’Anse 12-2 in a Division 4 district championship this year. They’ll be led in the All-Star game by Korey Kaukola, Madison Pruett and Willow LaChapelle.

Three players from the state champion Eskymos will take the diamond for the South siders. Georgia Lehton, Heather Bergstrom and Lexi Chaillier. Esky topped Stevensville Lakeshore 7-3 in last weekend’s Division 2 final, and finished the season with an impressive 34-3 record.

The Broncos bring Christy Fitzgerald, Cierra Ouradnik, Eden Oswald, Lillian Sternberg and Tatiana LaFace to the table, and Norway will showcase Ada VanHolla, Allison Sheski and Mariah Gyselinck.

Rapid River seniors include Ellie Moberg and Jaden Schwartz, while Abby Burnham will appear for the Emeralds.

Game one is slated for 4:30 p.m. at LaCombe Field. Admission is free and a concession stand will be available.

Carlson encourages fans to come out and watch these athletes one final time in their high school careers before all of them go several different directions in life.

“It’s one last time to see a lot of these girls,” he said. “A lot of them were on teams that were pretty successful. There’s Esky of course, Bark River made a bit of a run too. There will be a lot of good players around. A lot of good seniors playing one last time at the high school level.”

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.