Rudyard takes regional title over Ishpeming

The Rudyard High School softball team celebrates after beating Ishpeming in the Region 25 championship game on Saturday, June 11, 2018, in Norway, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

NORWAY — The Ishpeming Hematites appeared to have some momentum heading into Saturday’s Division 4 regional championship softball game.

Rudyard, however, changed that in a hurry as it handed the Hematites a 14-2 loss in the Region 25 championship.

Ishpeming was coming off an emotional 4-1 victory in 11 innings over Rapid River in its opener.

The Hematites, however, fell behind 5-0 in the opening frame of the championship match-up.

“We knew Ishpeming was coming off a hard-fought game,” said Rudyard head coach Kurt Kwiatkowski. “We wanted to get ahead and put a little pressure on them. Our defense played lights out. Our infield made some phenomenal plays.”

The marked the first regional title for Rudyard (29-7), which meets Rogers City in Tuesday’s quarterfinal game at Petoskey. The Hematites finished 18-13.

“We just put so much into the first game,” said Ishpeming coach Ben McGuire. “We kept battling and finally got over the hump. All their (Rudyard’s) runs in the first inning made it difficult after such an emotional win.”

The Bulldogs, who collected four hits in the first, scored their fifth run on junior Emilee Curtis’s single to leftfield.

Rudyard added a run in the fifth on Curtis’s double to right-center for a 6-0 cushion.

Ishpeming got on the board in its half of the fifth on a ground out to the pitcher by senior Emma Bleau in its half of the fifth.

The Bulldogs went back up by six runs (7-1) on an infield single by freshman Jordan Spring in the sixth.

Ishpeming again answered in its half of the sixth, trimming its deficit to 7-2 on sophomore Tia Mattila’s single to right, but Rudyard got out of the inning by picking Mattila off first.

“That was a big play,” Kwiatkowski said. “They were starting to hit the ball a little. and we needed to get out of that inning without further damage. The good thing is each time they scored, we answered right away.”

The Bulldogs put the game completely out of reach by scoring seven times in the seventh.

Rudyard collected 16 hits. Senior Jordan Spring finished with four hits and drove in three runs. Freshman Morgan Bickel added three hits and an RBI. Curtis finished with two hits and two RBIs, Seniors Lane Clegg, Autumn Lemmerman and junior Cierra Molina also had two hits.

Curtis pitched the entire contest and picked up the win. She struck out four, walked none and allowed five hits.

“Emilee did a great job,” Kwiatkowski said. “I thought about using another pitcher. But after the way Emilee pitched the first game, I just had to let her go back out there. She had the eye of the tiger today.”

Senior Emma Bleau also went the distance and absorbed the loss. She fanned seven and walked three.

Bleau, however, earned the complete game victory against Rapid River by recording 13 strikeouts, two walks and scattering six hits.

“Emma is such a bulldog and has so much confidence,” McGuire said. “When she was on the mound, we were in every game. I think she just hit empty against Rudyard, although they’re a real good hitting team. I think Rapid River is also a very good hitting team. That was one of the best games Emma has thrown for us.”

The Hematites secured the decision by scoring three times in the 11th during which the international tie-breaker rule went into effect.

Junior Korey Kaukola put Ishpeming ahead to stay on a single to left by sophomore Tia Mattila.

Mattila then scored its third run on a passed ball and Bleau concluded the scoring on junior Willow LaChapelle’s single to center.

Kaukola opened the scoring on a bases-loaded walk in the first.

The Rockets (33-8) tied to score on a single to left by Lexi Trombley in the sixth.

Ishpeming managed eight hits off freshman Natalie Belanger, who fanned 19 and walked three.

“This was not Natalie’s fault,” said Rockets’ coach George Kanyuh. “What she did was over and beyond. If we were still playing, I think Natalie would be out there doing fine.”

Kaukola, Mattila and Bleau finished with two apiece. Richelle Vandeville led Rapid River with three.

Rudyard reached the title game by eliminating Ironwood 10-0 in six innings.