Gremlins teach tough lesson

LAKE LINDEN – Some lessons can only be learned the hard way.

The Lake Linden-Hubbell softball team for instance, are not likely not forget to tag up again.

After being mercy-ruled Saturday at the Boneyard by Houghton 11-1 in game one, the Lakes quickly bounced back in game two to take a 9-9 tie into the bottom of the seventh inning. With less than two outs and runners on second and third, Vivica Nelson lifted a fly ball to right field, more than deep enough to win the game. In a moment of undue haste, however, the Lakes runner forgot to tag up at third and was eventually doubled-up at home when she went back to rectify the mistake, giving the Gremlins another chance.

Houghton seized it immediately. With hits from Ashlyn Kero, Colleen Toorongian and Anna Gaffney, the Black and Orange pushed across two runs in extra innings. The Lakes answer fell one hit short, and Houghton seized a pair of Copper Country Conference wins with an 11-10 final.

After the missed opportunity in the bottom of the seventh frame, both Houghton coach Melissa Grego and LL-H coach Jeff Shepeard could be heard vehemently reinforcing the basics of tagging up.

“There were some learning opportunities on both sides,” Grego said. “Both teams made some mistakes today. I don’t think my heart has started beating up again.

“It will take a few years, but learning from our mistakes now both teams will be better the next game. We will just keep improving.”

The pair of wins gave Houghton two valuable wins in the newly formed Copper Country Conference, a strong start after Calumet has already proved its worthiness as a challenger.

Lake Linden, Calumet, Jeffers and L’Anse are in the first year of their programs, while Hancock has started its second. The Houghton softball team is in the sixth year of its existence.

“It’s like Christmas. It’s so good for our area,” Grego said. “For us personally, not having to get home at midnight after traveling for each game. But for the competition, all the teams will improve faster when there is a little more at stake each game, a little more familiarity.”

Houghton’s experience shone in the first game, as the Gremlins wrapped together 11 hits for 11 runs and starting pitcher Toorongian held the Lakes down to four hits in the five-inning contest.

Houghton’s Lisa Keskimaki led the way with a trio of base knocks (including a triple and double), while Gaffney, Kenna Farrey and Bekah Goodreau collected two hits apiece.

Lake Linden shook off the defeat quickly though, plating five runs in the first frame to start the second game and notching 17 hits in all.

Jana Hendrickson starred with a 4-for-4 performance, while Kyleigh Audette, Taylor Shepeard, Ciarra Larson and Kierstyn Codere picked up two hits apiece. The Lakes needed the offensive outburst as starting pitcher Sarah Audette was gamely battling with a heavily wrapped and braced left ankle injured Thursday in the teams’ first meeting.

Houghton starting pitcher Goodreau buttoned down and picked up the win though, with two big strikeouts in the eighth inning to strand a pair of runners on base.

Grego said she could see Goodreau’s confidence and comfort level grow as the game went on.

“She stepped up when we needed her,” Grego said. “She did what we needed her to do. She’s growing up.”