By Justin Marietti
For The Daily News
ESCANABA - A little belief goes a long way.
Justin Marietti/Escanaba Daily Press Photos
Kingsford’s Jess Tomasoski scores as Gladstone’s Natalie Belanger fields the ball during their game Wednesday at Lemerand Field in Escanaba.
Kingsford Minor (age 9-10) girls Little League coach Jerry Roberge and a few of his players showed up to Wednesday night's game against Gladstone with the word "Believe" written on their hands. And despite Gladstone's two aces putting together a no-hitter, Kingsford managed to come out with a 6-4 victory and will become the second team from district 10 to advance to the state tournament.
"It worked," Roberge said. "This is the most proud I've ever been of the kids. Every one of them made a play."
According to Roberge, Brooke Kreigl had nine put outs at third base. Shortstop Claire Mongrain had five, and second baseman Maddy Holmes had three. First basemen Lexi Roberge caught all 15 balls thrown her way. Jessica Tomasoski made several big plays in the outfield, and catcher Teagan Petschar had only one passed ball all night.
Kingsford came out aggressive right out of the gate. Kriegl and Holmes both earned walks and rounded the bases on steals, then scored on passed balls to give their team the early 2-0 lead.
Kaylin Mylalla followed suit in the third after she was walked, and a mishandled throw back to the pitcher allowed her to add another run. In fact, every run scored by Kingsford was earned that way, and despite not coming up with a single hit in the ball game, they found a way to prevail simply on the eight walks they received.
Abbey Terrian and Lydia Wilson also scored runs.
"I want to commend Kingsford for the way they played," said Gladstone coach Tom Salo. "They did what they needed to do to win the game, and they deserved to win the game.
"We made some mistakes. Our two pitchers combined for a no-hitter today, but base-on-balls killed us. That, and unforced errors were the reasons why Kingsford was able to capitalize."
Gladstone was trailing 6-1 in the fifth, but they began to battle back. Megan Crow came up with a base hit on a fielding error, and Abby Hansen smacked an RBI single to bring the run in.
In the sixth inning, Alaina Trudeau and Jacinda Lippens got back-to-back base hits They began to round the bases and play Kingsford at their own game, both scoring on miscues to bring them within two runs. However, Kingsford's defense had stepped it up all night, and a textbook defensive play on a ground ball that was thrown to Roberge at first was a fitting way to bring the game to a close.
A bouncing ball was hit off the foot of Kingsford pitcher Kate Cook, which in turn made the ball slow down enough to be fielded, and it was tossed over to Roberge for the easy final out.
"Our third baseman Brooke Kriegl was phenomenal," Roberge said. "And Lexi scooped up three balls at first; she's never made plays like that in her life. It was just our day."
As a result of the victory, Kingsford earns the right to play in the state tournament, which will begin July 26 at Lemerand Field.
"We're just very happy to be a part of the tournament," Roberge added.
Salo added that he and his team worked extremely hard over the past month in practice, and he feels that even though they lost consecutive games in this tournament, there were times that his girls played very well.
"I thought that our entire team worked really hard," he said. "I love my girls, I love this community, and I wish Kingsford and Escanaba the very best of luck."
Coach Roberge said no Kingsford girls softball team at any level had beaten a Gladstone or Escanaba team in at least 13 years.
"If we played Gladstone 50 times, they beat us 49 and one half," he said. "We played out of our minds."