Kingsford bows in district thriller

By Keith Shelton

For The Daily News

ESCANABA – The Escanaba Senior League (age 15-16) girls pulled off some late inning heroics Tuesday night and raised the district championship trophy and banner proudly after edging Kingsford 2-1 in a tight battle.

After both teams were seeing smoke from ace pitching through a scoreless first five and a half innings, Escanaba hammered home a clutch victory thanks to the effort of its bench.

Erica Sommers hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh with the score tied 1-1 and Alyssa Polequin followed with a single. Sommers then scored from second base on a fielding error to end the game.

“It’s amazing,” said Sommers of the thrill of scoring off the bench. “I stopped on third base and then I just kind of watched and the ball was at the fence and the coach was screaming go! go! go! I was all like ‘but I’m so slow!” and I just went, and it felt great.”

It was a hard turn for Kingsford from the top of the inning. Kingsford entered the seventh with a 1-0 deficit, needing a run to prolong the game. With two outs, and a Lorna Caron at second base, Molly Menneguzzo came up to bat. She had two strikes when she hit a ball to centerfield to score Caron and tie the game.

“For Molly, it was just a great at-bat,” said Kingsford coach Kevin Murdock. “She’s a girl that was on the high school team but didn’t play very much and so far in this tournament for the first two games, I DH’ed for her. I texted her last night and let her know ‘you’re batting for yourself today.’ and she sent me a text back saying ‘I won’t let you down coach.”

Of the game ending error, Murdock said “That was a bad throw and it wasn’t (Menneguzzo’s) fault. She probably should have just held it at that point and left the bases loaded, but you can’t blame them. They’re trying to make plays.”

Kingsford had another opportunity to score in the fourth inning with runners at second and third and no outs, but Esky starting pitcher Sam Connor was able to work out of the jam. She got Sadie Ventimiglia to fly out and Caron hit into a fielder’s choice with Piron running down Tessa Merhalski on a pickle between third and home plate. Sierra Fayas then grounded out to first.

Connor, who pitched four innings and Frappier limited Kingsford to few real opportunities, allowing seven hits, no walks and striking out five.

Equally impressive was Kingsford ace Emily Murdock who pitched the entire game, stifling Escanaba and allowing six hits, no walks with one hit batter and three strikeouts.

“She’s a battler, said Murdock. “She had a rough game yesterday (15-14 over Norway) and to come back here tonight and pitch a great game like she did, that’s just awesome. She’s a tough kid.”

Escanaba broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth. Mackenzie Leisner led off with a base single and a base hit and sac-bunt moved her to third, where she scored off Connor’s sacrifice groundout.

Escanaba now advances to the Senior League state tournament which will be held at Lemerand Field in Escanaba beginning this weekend.

Janay Walters hit a single and double in the loss. Murdock, Merhalski, Sadie Ventimiglia, Coron and Menguzzo each finished with one hit.

“We went from a slugfest one night, to a pitchers duel the next,” Murdock said. “This was a very exciting and quality game by both teams – great pitching, good hitting, and outstanding defensive plays by both teams. It was a fun game to be part of.

“I was really proud of the whole team’s performance tonight. They played great. This is the way championship games should be played.”

Against Norway Monday night, Walters’s third double of the game scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh to lift Kingsford 15-14.

“It was an incredible game with Norway,” Murdock said. “Just when you think you have somebody they come back. Norway has very good softball players. You can never count them out, and they proved that in that game.

Lacey Walsh and Murdock pitched, allowing nine hits. Murdock addd three singles at the plate. Walsh and Merhalski also had a hit.