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Friday December 14, 2018
SWEET SWEEP: Rockets Knock Off Braves Twice

GLADSTONE---The Rapid River High School softball team swept both ends of a doubleheader from the Gladstone Braves on Tuesday, 11-1 and 6-4, marking the first time in program history that the Rockets have turned that trick.

"I just got done telling them that the only thing that will be better than this is winning districts," Rockets Coach George Kanyuh said. "We've got to get that district crown back, and that's the whole goal of this season. We've split with Gladstone a few times in the past, but we've never won two, so that is nice. But it will be a shortlived celebration."

"This is a big victory for us," said Rapid River first baseman Lexi Trombley, who jacked a three-run homer in the opener. "We've super-pumped."

"It was awesome."

"I"ve played a lot of softball with these girls over the years for Tri-County Thunder (travel team)," right fielder Jaden Schwartz added. "It was just a big victory for us Rockets to beat them."

With all of the offense from the Rockets, it was actually a defensive play by Schwartz that made a big difference in the first game. Rapid River led, 3-0, on a two-run hit by Shelby Lacosse and a bases loaded walk, when the Braves tried to rally in the third inning.

With runners at second and third with one out, Natalie Hansen smoked a ball toward the right field corner. Schwatz came way over, reached out, and made a fantastic catch. Then, she threw the ball across the field to third base for the double play. Instead of a 3-2 game, it stayed 3-0, and then the Rockets scored six runs the next inning.

"I just told myself that I've got to catch this ball," Schwartz said. "It was a rocket, right to me. And I knew I wasn't going to get the girl at second, so I went and I shot it to third, and I got that double play, which was very nice for our team."

"That defensive play shifted the momentum," Kanyuh said. "That was a game-changer right there. That turned the whole game around."

"Didn't change the score in our favor, but, boy, did it jack up our team. Six inches either way and she probably doesn't get that. But she did. And it just snowballed from there."

Indeed it did. The Rockets scored six runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by Trombley's three-run bomb. Gladstone tried to extend the game with a rally in the bottom of the fifth inning as Hannah Sharon crushed a solo home run to left field, and had two runners on base. But the game ended on a called third strike.

Freshman Natalie Belanger tossed all five innings for the Rockets to earn the win. Belanger, Brittany Schwartz and Richelle Vandeville all had two hits and an RBI.

Lexi Winling took the loss, and was relieved by Morgan Letteriello and Maddie Kowalski in the final two innings. Kaitlyn Hardwick had two hits for the Braves.

The second game was a pitcher's dual for four innings between Rapid River's Brittany Schwartz and Winling. But the Rockets scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning, with Brittany Schwartz getting an RBI triple after failing to get a bunt down.

Trombley's grounder scored a run when the throw home was late, then Jaden Schwartz and Lacosse added RBI doubles.

Erica Proehl ripped a hot shot back into the circle that hit the reliever Letteriello to bring home another run as she got the out at first.

Gladstone, however, made a last-ditch comeback effort. The Braves got a run in the fifth inning, and then scored three times in the bottom of the sixth. Hunter, who injured her hand earlier in the game, re-entered the lineup and ripped an RBI single to center field, and then Letteriello hit a sacrifice fly to cut the gap to 5-4.

Rapid River scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning, and the Braves came back in the bottom half when Amber Lenards ripped a double off the fence in center field and went to third on a single by Taylor Trundeau.

Balenger came on in relief for the Rockets, and struck out Hansen for the second out. With runners at second and third, and Sydney Herioux at the plate, Balenger's pitch went back to the screen. Lenards broke from third, and Vandeville pounced on the ball, got it to Balenger, and the tag was applied at home plate to end the game.

Rapid River improved to 14-6 on the season with the sweep.

Gladstone, which had lost only to top-ranked Clinton and seventh-ranked Kalkaska this season, fell to 15-4 on the season.

Both the Braves and Rockets are in action this weekend at the Escanaba Invitational, with both teams facing a talented Millington Cardinals team from downstate.

First, Gladstone will take on the Manistique Emeralds on Friday, and then will play a tripleheader in Escanaba on Saturday. The Braves will play Marshfield, Wis., at 9 a.m., Ishpeming at 11 a.m., and Millington at 1 p.m.

Rapid River will play Millington Friday night at 6:00. Then on Saturday, the Rockets will face Kingsford at 9 a.m.,  and Negaunee at 1 p.m.

Click the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box above to see photos and videos taken by Mike Dagenais and Bri Winling. Also, click the AUDIO buttons to hear post-game comments from Kanyuh, Trombley and Schwartz...and a radio replay of the game's final out.









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