Softball: Broncos rout Norway for district title

Bark River-Harris' Allison Richer, right, slides into home plate in front of Norway catcher Cassidy Menard during Friday's Division 4 District 99 championship game in Rapid River. (Austin Hemmingson/The Daily Press)

RAPID RIVER — After five years of building a program, the Bark River-Harris softball team finally put it all together.

The Broncos put up six runs in the first inning on their way to their first district title in school history, routing Norway 10-0 in five innings Friday in a Division 4 District 99 championship game.

BR-H advances to the regional semifinal next Saturday at Norway, where they will face the winner of today’s district in L’Anse.

“This is the coolest thing in the history of my life,” BR-H coach Jen Goodrich said. “No offense to my husband, but this just feels absolutely fantastic. It’s something we’ve been working for, and it’s something we’ve always had as a goal for our program. It feels great to go from a club sport to a district champ in just five years.”

The Broncos (26-6) took advantage of some sloppy play by the Knights in the first, loading the bases after a dropped third strike and back-to-back walks.

Alexis Berg then stepped to the plate and smoked a grand slam to right-center field for a 4-0 lead. It was her second one of the day, as she also hit one against Rapid River in a 9-3 win in the semifinals. Her grand slams were the first ones in school history.

“That was actually really cool,” Berg said. “It was the second one I had today, so it meant a lot to me, especially in districts to help us win the championship game. I knew when I hit it it was probably going pretty far.”

BR-H tacked on two more in the inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Sierra Debelak and Allison Richer to make it 6-0.

“I think it was really to our benefit because we had to see Rapid River first — good hitting, good defense, good batting and pitching,” Goodrich said. “I think Norway really had trouble timing us up today, especially because they seen Stephenson beforehand. That was definitely to our advantage. When somebody else makes an error, you have to capitalize on it, and we did.”

The opposite was true for the Knights (21-16), who never found a rhythm after beating Stephenson 17-2 in the semifinals.

“Spotting them a four-run lead was tough,” Knights’ coach Bob Bal said. “Eden’s (Oswald) a real good pitcher for them. If we got a 4-0 lead, I’d like our chances too. They just kept battling and we couldn’t really get the bat on the ball. We got some runners on base, we just couldn’t string anything together. Some days just are not your day, and today wasn’t ours.”

The Broncos didn’t score again until the fifth, when they scored a run on an error and a wild pitch, followed by back-to-back RBI singles by Berg and Cierra Ouradnik to end the game.

Berg finished with three hits, a home run, five RBIs and scored the winning run. Oswald grabbed the shutout win over four innings, striking out five while surrendering just two hits and two walks. She was also the winning pitcher against Rapid River.

“She did awesome,” Goodrich said. “You could tell she was getting a little bit tired there, but we knew she wasn’t going to quit. She was going to give 150 percent until she was falling down, and I think she did a fantastic job.”

Mariah Gyselinck took the loss for Norway, allowing 10 runs (eight earned) on 11 hits while walking four and fanning three.

Bal said he would have liked his team to face faster pitching in the first game to better prepare it for the title game.

“That first game was tough. That slow pitching really screws you up — it’s a change-up every pitch. I think I would have rather faced Rapid,” he said. “Not to take anything away from them — they played a great game. They put the bat on the ball, they had a girl hit a grand slam. Hats off to them.”

Norway loses five seniors, and Bal took time to reflect on the season and talk about what they’ve meant to the program.

“It was a good year,” he said. “I feel bad for the seniors. I’m losing five incredible kids — they were the heart and soul of this team. They have a lot of wins. We won two districts, and they were a part of it. They were five starters, and they all played and contributed. The sun will come up tomorrow, but you can tell by the look on their faces with the tears in their eyes that they do care. This is their last varsity sport, and many of them won’t play competitively again. It’s tough.”