Houghton sweeps, Hancock makes strides

HANCOCK – For four innings Monday, the Hancock softball team was right there with rival Houghton. For the time being, that pace will have to do.

Houghton, chasing the first Copper Country Conference title, pulled away for an 8-3 win in the opener and finished it with a 15-4 final in the second game.

Hancock just got its first wins as a program in 1 1/2 seasons over the weekend against Jeffers, but the Bulldogs felt good about the way they played at Hancock Driving Park.

“We are playing so much better right now, and probably at the right time because playoffs are next week. Everybody expected Houghton to blow us away, bottom line, and the girls stayed with them, both games,” coach Randy Meyer said.

Hancock picked up a pair of unearned runs with two outs in the first thanks to three Houghton errors. Jessica Schlaff’s second-inning RBI single and an RBI groundout by Anna Gaffney in the third tied the game, but Hancock took the lead one more time when pitcher Carolyn Parker reached on an error and came around on a Mary Jarvis triple to center in the fourth.

Houghton reestablished order in the top of the fifth, batting around and scoring five runs with the help of three hits and three errors. Lisa Keskimaki and Jessica Schlaff (two) had RBIs in the decisive frame.

“We were slow off the gates with our bats, but they warmed up and we were hitting the ball well,” Houghton coach Melissa Grego said.

The Gremlins tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when Kenna Farrey reached on an error and Schlaff singled her in for her third hit and fourth RBI of the contest.

Colleen Toorongian pitched Houghton to the win in both games. In the first, she allowed three unearned runs on three hits and struck out 11. Parker took the loss allowing three earned runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.

Houghton scored in each of the first five innings of the second game, though it didn’t really get out of hand until a seven-run top of the seventh.

Schlaff continued her impact on the doubleheader by reaching on an error to lead off the second and scoring on Farrey’s single. Farrey came around on an RBI groundout by Ashlyn Kero to make it 3-0 after two.

In the third, Schlaff singled in Anna Gaffney and scored after a Farrey double.

Hancock pulled two runs back in the bottom of the inning, then gave two up in the top of the fifth before the Gremlins put it away in the seventh.

“We still make a few mental mistakes out there, but the fielding has come a long way. We’ve done things today that we haven’t done in the past. I’m real happy with that,” Meyer said.

Heather Huffmaster had three of Hancock’s five hits. Molly Berg took the pitching loss.

“We’re competing with every team that we’re playing with now I think the girls’ heads are a lot higher and I think they see that. I think they see the big difference. I think we’ve made a turn in the season and I think we’re peaking at the right time in the playoffs,” Meyer said.

Hancock faces L’Anse Wednesday in what is both teams’ last scheduled contests before the Division 4 district tournament next week in Ironwood.

For Houghton, Toorongian took the ball again in the pitcher’s circle with regular No. 2 starter Bekah Goodreau not feeling well. Toorongian allowed one earned run on five hits with eight K’s and three walks.

Farrey was 4-for-4 and drove in four runs, while Bella Maki and Keskimaki added two hits apiece.

Houghton and Calumet meet Wednesday night at the Gipp Recreation Complex in Laurium for what will likely decide the first league title.

“We’ve got to keep our bats going like we have been the last few games and we also have to clean up our errors and I think it will be a good couple of games up in Calumet,” Grego said.