Esky Ladies Swarm Braves In Doubleheader Sweep

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos taken by GHS student Jayger Quinn. Also listen to interviews with Katey Lamb, McKenzie Engebretson, Escanaba Manager Andy Fields, and Gladstone Manager Rick Pepin.

ESCANABA---The Escanaba Eskymos and Gladstone Braves hooked up in a softball doubleheader Tuesday night as the regular season slowly heads toward the post-season.


It was a chance for both teams to play against a quality opponent, face quality pitching, and have some fun among neighbors. In the end, the Eskymos took both games from the Braves, 5-2, and 13-3, setting up another battle next Tuesday in Gladstone.


“In many of our sports against Gladstone, you just never know,” Escanaba Manager Andy Fields said. “It's usually a scrappy game. They give us a good battle. Our girls hit well in that second game, and I give our girls credit, because we had to move some girls around today. Our pitchers aren't 100-percent healthy. We've kind of been doing this all year.”


“We've just to keep stacking successes on top of each other,” Gladstone Manager Rick Pepin said. “We're going to work this process in practice, and be fundamentally-sound. We just want to be playing our best ball at the right time of the year. And if we are fortunate enough to get past districts, we get to host regionals. That's a lot to work for.”


Gladstone senior Lauren Sundquist started the doubleheader off with a bang, taking Escanaba ace Grayson LaMarche over the left field fence on the first pitch of the game.


“You can't ask for a better way to start a game,” Pepin said. “For Lauren, that's her perfecting her swing over the years, and having the work ethic. She was waiting for this opportunity. She wants to see this kind of pitching all the time. She's going to hit a lot more home runs in her time. But that one, that's a special one.”


LaMarche, who has signed to play softball at the University of Michigan, was in control most of the way, striking out 16 batters. Things got tight in the seventh inning, though, when Maddy Sundquist struck out but was safe on an error, Brooklyn Pendergraft bunted one in the perfect spot past the circle, and Emma Trombley got a single, with another Eskymo error bringing home Gladstone's second run.


Then Sundquist rifled a base hit to load the bases, and there was just one out in the inning. LaMarche, however, buckled down and struck out Reese Herioux and Montgomery Pepin to end the ballgame.


Fields says that LaMarche is still trying to battle back from injuries that limited her play in other sports during this school year.


“I wouldn't say she's 100-percent back,” Fields said. “Even an 85-percent Grayson is a really, really good player. We're working on getting her stamina back. She's got some muscle-achiness that goes with losing 15, 20 pounds. She's coming along.”

The key at-bat for the Eskymos was by McKenzie Engebritson, who capped off a four-run third inning with a booming two-run double to make it 5-1. The Eskymos cashed in on three walks by Pepin, and LaMarche also had an RBI hit in that inning.


“Gummy (Pepin) throws hard, so she's going to supply the power a lot of the rimes,” Engebretson said. “It's just about wrapping your bat around it, and finding a gap. I was able to do that today.It's all about adjusting to the pitchers. I get a lot of feedback from the girls who hit in front of me.”


Engebretson had three hits in the win, three of the team's eight total hits.


In the second game, the Braves jumped to an early again, when Alli Larson smacked a two-run double to the fence to make it a 3-0 game in the first inning. But the Eskymos responded with two bat-around innings: four runs in the first and six runs in the second to take control. The icing on the cake was Katey Lamb's two-run homer to right field in the third inning on the eleventh pitch of the at-bat against Pepin.


“We knew it was going to be a pretty good game coming in,” Lamb said. “We didn't really know what to expect. I mean, we know Gummy, but we didn't know who else they would throw because Tia (Schone) is out. She (Pepin) just kept moving me around, so I was just trying to get those pitches (fouled) off. She just gave me a good one at the end.”


“Katey's really been the #1 bat in our line-up this week (four home runs in two days),” Fields said. “In her at-bats, she really works the pitcher, and that's been good for us.”


Carly Bowden, after a frustrating first game when she struck out three times (twice on border pitches), came through in game two with three hits in three at-bats.


Escanaba improved to 20-4 on the season. Two of those losses came at home to Negaunee on April 23, and the Eskymos will head to Negaunee for a single game Wednesday afternoon against the Miners. Is Fields thinking “payback”?


“Yes,” Fields said. “A few weeks ago, we lost Grayson, we only had one practice, and then we had to play them twice. Now, they only want to play us once because their pitcher (Grace Nardi) is out. They don't want to play us two games. So, yeah, I'll be honest, we're going to go up there and we want some payback, because we're going up there for one game. I'd like to play two.”


The Eskymos will then head to Gaylord for a huge weekend tournament, where they will play Novi, North Farmington, and Lansing Waverly. And if all goes well, a rematch against defending state champion Gaylord.


Gladstone, with the loss, fell to 14-9 on the season. The Braves will be at home this weekend for games on Friday and Saturday against Boyne City (14-11), Standish-Sterling (13-15), Hart (22-6), and Clare (25-5). The schedule for the home tournament at the Gladstone High School:


Gladstone vs Boyne City, 4:30 p.m.
Boyne City vs Hart, 6 p.m.


Clare vs Boyne City, 9 a.m.
Gladstone vs Standish-Sterling, 10:30 a.m.
Hart vs Standish-Sterling, noon
Gladstone vs Hart, 1:30 p.m.
Standish-Sterling vs Clare, 3 p.m.
Gladstone vs Clare, 4:30 p.m.

LISTEN: Gladstone Coach Rick Pepin comments
LISTEN: Andy Fields post-game comments
LISTEN: McKenzie Engebretson post-game comments
LISTEN: Katey Lamb post-game comments