Prep softball: Negaunee breaks open close games with late rallies at Ishpeming

ISHPEMING – John Anderson is tired of being the tortoise.

Instead, the head coach of the Negaunee High School varsity softball team would like to try out the hare’s running shoes once in awhile.

Even though this Aesop’s fable teaches that slow and steady will come out ahead in the end, Anderson will take his chances with a fast start more often in Miners’ games.

“I hate to sound like a broken record, but we started slow again,” he said about Negaunee’s 13-5 and 13-4 sweep at Ishpeming on Tuesday.

“We started out having to play small ball trying to get a lead before I let the girls really start hitting.”

The first two innings of the second game were a perfect example of that.

In the opening inning, leadoff batter Rosalie Anderson walked, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by the next batter, Taylor Ring, and scored on a suicide squeeze by No. 3 hitter Ashley Anderson.

Then in the second, leadoff walks to Nicole Richer and Alley Nelson, a steal and two wild pitches put runners on second and third with none out. Even though a subsequent infield bouncer was converted into an out at the plate by Ishpeming third baseman Lindsey Thompson and catcher Libbie Doney, an error, passed ball and wild pitch brought two runs home.

Negaunee’s line at that point read: 3 runs on no hits.

The Miners built a 4-0 lead after their half of the third, but Ishpeming stormed back in the bottom of the inning, using two singles, a triple by Thompson, a pair of walks, two errors and several wild pitches to tie the score 4-4.

“It’s a game of opportunities,” Hematites coach Jeremy Thompson said. “Our girls came through and put some runs on the board.”

With the field starting out wet after steady morning rains, renewed precipitation didn’t help matters just about the time Ishpeming made the second game interesting.

Conditions deteriorated to the point that fielders in general, and pitchers in particular, started losing their footing. Ishpeming hurlers Sinead Korvela and Caitlin Korvela hit three batters in the fourth and fifth innings, and it bothered Rosalie Anderson, too, even though she got the pitching victory.

“I couldn’t get movement on my pitches anymore,” she said.

Nelson agreed.

“The mud gets in your spikes and you lose traction,” the Game 2 first baseman said. “Then the ball dies in the mud when you’re trying to field it.”

Nevertheless, the more experienced Miners turned the rain into gold, plating nine runs in the final two innings before the umpires called the game after the fifth.

“You can’t have even one bad inning against a team like Negaunee,” Jeremy Thompson said. “This is a game of mistakes. Whoever makes the least will probably win.”

Like Rosalie Anderson in the nightcap, her younger sister Adena Anderson went the distance on the rubber for victory in the opener.

That game was scoreless until the top of the order strung four straight hits together as the cornerstone of a seven-run third. Ishpeming cut it to 7-5 in the fifth before the Miners ended with back-to-back three-run innings for the final result.

For the day, Negaunee’s Rachel Ring had just two hits, but she knocked in five runs, a majority coming on a three-run inside-the-park homer in the second game.

Teammate Taylor Ring had four hits all day, while Ishpeming’s Emily Myers and Negaunee’s Nicole Richer finished with three apiece.

Both teams play at home today. Ishpeming hosts Gwinn in a single Mid-Peninsula Conference game at 3 p.m., while Negaunee entertains Norway in a nonconference doubleheader at 4 p.m.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.