Negaunee Miners softball team pulls out 4-3 victory over Escanaba in final at-bat

Negaunee pitcher Megan Marker winds up to deliver a pitch during a high school softball game played against Escanaba on Wednesday at LaCombe Field in Negaunee. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Mitch Vosburg)

NEGAUNEE — All signs pointed to the Escanaba High School softball team avenging an April 23 doubleheader loss to Negaunee.

When Esky junior Clara Braun crossed home plate to take a 4-3 lead against Negaunee in the top of the sixth inning, it seemed all but certain. But there’s a funny thing about softball — nothing is for certain.

A short while later, Negaunee’s Theresa Anderson belted a pitch deep to right field. It was the first out of the inning, but it was the final play of the game as teammate Rebecca Lammi scored from third base on the sacrifice fly to give the Miners a 5-4 walk-off win Wednesday.

“We have some work to do,” Esky coach Andy Fields said. “We were lacking and lagging a little bit, and that’s a good Negaunee team.”

Escanaba trailed 3-0 entering the fifth, continually being tied up and flustered by Miners freshman hurler Megan Marker’s changeup that moved at seemingly a snail’s pace.

Until Braun smacked the first pitch of her at-bat to left field for a base hit. She was bunted to second by Carly McInerney, and Anna Boutilier moved her to third to put two runners in scoring position with one out.

Landry Bray, who assumed first base duties after a lineup shakeup due to sophomore Harlee Coolman suffering a lower body injury while covering first base in the game’s second at-bat, earned an RBI groundout to score Braun and pull Esky within two.

The Eskymos started the top of the sixth with Maddy Mott flying out to right field and Katey Lamb striking out off a foul tip for two quick outs. Then McKenzie Engebretson and Chloe Dubord belted back-to-back singles to set up the golden opportunity for Braun.

She didn’t disappoint, smacking a 1-0 pitch off the base of the fence in left to score Engebretson and Dubord. Braun found herself on third as the throw went to home plate.

Suddenly the game was tied 3-3 with Braun on third, momentum fully shifted toward the orange and black.

Braun scored on a passed ball on the first pitch McInerney saw during the ensuing at-bat. The Eskymos had their first lead of the game.

It all boiled down to Mott and company silencing the Miners in the bottom of the seventh.

But the Miners made a little noise when Alyssa Borlance connected with a 1-2 pitch that snuck under the glove of Engebretson at second and into the outfield grass for a lead-off single.

Lammi then came up to bat. The objective was to drop a bunt and move Borlance into scoring position with one out.

Lammi dropped the bunt. Mott was the first to the ball. Mott’s throw sailed long, finding the gravel in right field deep into foul territory.

Borlance scored from first. And like Braun an inning earlier, Lammi found herself on third with a chance to take control of the game.

Anderson then connected with the first pitch she saw of the following at-bat. It was snagged by McInerney, but her throw was three feet off the plate and a half-second late. The Miners earned the win, beating the Eskymos (20-5) for the third time this season.

“It says we’re a very good team,” Negaunee coach Randy Carlson said. “I thought we were a very good team coming into this year, but we’re not a team that’s going to come in and roll anybody for the most part, especially good teams.

“It’s a testament to the girls that we’ve come to the point where we can compete in these games. The fact that we’re here and competing is all you can ask for.”

Marker earned the win, allowing four runs (two earned) off five hits with four strikeouts across seven innings.

“It would’ve been a shame to see her not get the play off at the end. She pitched great,” Carlson said of Marker’s outing. “She pitched the game of her life. It was one of those things where it could’ve been a moral victory.

“We asked the girls to pick her up, to win this for her. The girls came through.”

Delaney Gladwell finished 2 for 4 with two stolen bases, a run scored and an RBI. Kallen Schultz finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a stolen base. Brielle Anderson and Grace Nardi also stole a base.

The Miners (22-6) host Alpena at 4 p.m. Friday.

For the Eskymos, Wednesday proved to be their fifth game in three days, earning Great Northern Conference sweeps over Marquette on Monday and Gladstone on Tuesday. Esky also makes a trip over the Mackinac Bridge for five games on Saturday. And there’s also graduation next week. Sore bodies and injuries are piling on after 2 1/2 months of work.

It’s what Fields describes as Esky’s Hell Week of the 2024 season.

“We’re filled with good players,” Fields said. “We tend to lose our focus a little bit. We gotta get over it pretty quick.”

Mott took the loss, allowing five runs (three earned) off four hits with a walk and five strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. Grayson LaMarche allowed two hits with five strikeouts in two innings of work and added a base hit.

Braun was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

“Clare’s ran into a buzzsaw all year,” Fields said. “I’m glad to finally see her peak at the right time. She’s doing really well.”

Engebretson finished 2 for 3 with a run scored. Anna Boutilier went 2 for 4 with a stolen base.


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