Calumet saves a split

LAURIUM With their chances of a conference championship slipping through their fingers, the Calumet softball team caught a break, then caught a share by splitting a Copper Country Conference series with Houghton Wednesday.

Having already lost game one in an unexpectedly shortened 13-3 rout to Houghton, the Copper Kings were down 7-5 with two out in the bottom of the sixth, and captain Megan Yeo had just popped up on the infield.

Instead of retiring the side, the 50-footer landed between multiple Houghton infielders and spun off the toe of one of them, harmlessly rolling to first base, where Yeo stood and ended up starting a decisive three-run rally.

“I didn’t even know. I just kept running and they didn’t call me out,” Yeo said.

Yeo scored when May Beiring’s at-bat ended in another infield error and Ellen Twardzik tied the game by singling in Selena Stromer. Beiring scored the eventual winning run on an infield hit by Emily Lahnala.

Lisa Keskimaki singled to lead off Houghton’s half of the seventh, but Kenna Farrey hit the ball right at Yeo near the middle of the diamond, where she turned a 6-3 double play. Though the next hitter, Colleen Toorongian, was a big reason the Gremlins won game one, she’d be the last hitter in game two after third baseman Clara Loukus made a head-first diving catch of a foul pop-up along the fence to end the game.

In the first season of league play, members will count the results of the later of two regular-season doubleheaders for the standings, meaning both teams will end up with one loss.

“It feels great because we had to win this game. The pressure was on, the girls came through when they had to,” Calumet co-coach Joel Rastello said.

Loukus’ catch came feet from the Houghton dugout. Coach Melissa Grego hopes her team was paying attention.

“It was also a good learning lesson. I’ve been talking to the girls about going 100 percent and that last play that Clara made was definitely 100 percent all out, and that’s how you get to the next level,” she said.

The Gremlins were close to spoiling the day at Gipp Recreation Area when they broke a 5-5 tie with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. Two-out RBI singles from Ashlyn Kero and Jessica Schlaff put Calumet’s backs to the wall, but they responded just in time.

“That’s kind of been our M.O. all year, one of our games in a doubleheader we’ve been leaving the field on good notes with the second games coming back,” Calumet co-coach Luke Peterson said.

Lahnala, Stromer and McKenna Monticello all had two hits for Calumet. The comeback made a winner out of pitcher Emily Erkkila, who allowed seven earned runs on 11 hits. She walked five and struck out one.

For Houghton, Bekah Goodreau took the hard-luck loss, with seven of the eight runs against her unearned. She scattered nine hits and struck out seven without issuing a free pass.

Four Gremlin players, including Goodreau, had two hits apiece to lead the visitors’ offense.

Houghton was playing with ‘house money’ in game two thanks to a two-hitter in the first game by Toorongian.

The Gremlins didn’t just stand around in amazement, either, racking up 11 hits and enough offense to get the contest stopped an inning early.

“She was just hitting her spot and she wasn’t giving them anything sweet to hit,” Grego said.

Houghton seized momentum almost immediately, as Lexi Pyykkonen’s double made her the first of six straight Gremlins to reach safely. Keskimaki, Farrey and Toorongian delivered RBI hits for a 4-0 lead before the sophomore even toed the rubber.

Calumet scratched out a run without a hit in the first, but was all but silent until the game was out of hand, which Houghton achieved by scoring three times in the third and six in the fourth.

“Their pitcher was good. Even if we make all of our plays in that field, we didn’t hit good enough, and I attribute a lot of that to Colleen. She threw a good game,” Peterson said.

Toorongian allowed two earned runs on the two hits, striking out seven and walking two.

Pyykkonen finished 3-for-4 to lead Houghton’s offense, but Goodreau was 2-for-3 with four RBIs. Keskimaki and Farrey also had two hits apiece.

Morgan Peters took the loss for Calumet.

Both teams go into Division 3 district play next week. Gladstone is the host of the non-traditional district, but the Gremlins drew the Braves in the quarterfinals. Calumet will host Manistique Wednesday at 3:30 at the Gipp diamond.

“The first game, it seemed like we didn’t have any intensity, pretty much that entire game. It seemed like it was just building the second game and we made a couple nice plays,” Peterson said.