RAPID RIVER - A steady drizzle mixed with swirling 30-mph gusts of wind, and later, a steady stream of precipitation clouded the Rapid River Rockets softball field Thursday evening. Much like the Escanaba Eskymos, who thoroughly defeated the Rockets 8-0 before the second game of the doubleheader was called off when thunder was heard in the area.
The temperature at the start of the game hovered around 42 degrees but dipped to around 36 by the seventh inning.
Despite that, Eskymos pitcher Jaymie Frappier was still able to come up with a masterful performance, tossing a two-hitter against the usually high-powered Rockets lineup.
"It was rough at first, because it's cold and my hands get all (numb). You just have to tough it out and keep going," said Frappier who struck out five and walked two. She said the unfavorable weather presents different challenges for both hitters and pitchers but said neither really has an advantage when the elements turn sour.
"I think it's kind of even, because if you hit on the wrong part of the bat, it stings your hands and pitching, your hands just get all cold and it's hard to grip the ball."
It was the Eskymos first game since the Spring Swing Tournament at the Superior Dome in March. So no matter the conditions, the Esky girls were hungry to be playing.
"Its the first time we've ever had 0 games in the month of April, the first time in the history of Escanaba softball," said Eskymos manager John LaMarch. "So we've had a long time to get to know each other. The kids have been practicing hard and they were anxious for today, even though it was cold, they were still very much into it."
Emily Bugado and Rebecca Piron each had two hits for the Eskymos who scored one run in the first, second and third, tagged the Rockets for three runs in the fifth and added two more in the seventh.
"We're very happy. We have a lot of respect for Rapid River, and although the weather wasn't perfect for softball, we're happy with our performance," said LaMarch. "Rapid definitely has plenty of pitching and a lot of talented athletes and I'm quite sure they'll be ready on May 18 when they come to the Escanaba tournament, and also further down the road when they make it into their playoffs."
Rapid River manager George Kanyuh acknowledged his team was dominated and he wasn't interested in making excuses.
"Tonight, there's no excuses. We should have hit better," he said. "You can say the weather contributed to a lot of things that went wrong, but the weather was that way for them too. They made the plays, got a few hits and outplayed us all the way around. They're a good team, but we should have given them a better game regardless of the weather."
Kanyuh said his team committed at least five errors and most of the bats on balls the Rockets got, ended up being line drives right to the Esky infielders. Still, he felt they underachieved.
"If anything, we should have had an advantage against them because this was their first outdoor game of the year," he said. "We had a doubleheader last night that was lousy weather and Monday night wasn't the greatest. We should have been a better conditioned team for the weather than them."
Rockets pitcher Savannah Stenlund started the game and was later relieved by Neena Brockway. Kanyuh said they did the best they could under the circumstances.
"Regardless of our record and regardless of the scores of our games, our pitching has been great. I have nothing negative to say about any of our pitchers. They just aren't getting the bat support at the plate. Tonight, they didn't get support in the field either," he said. "No doubt the weather contributed. We'll hit better on a nice day and I'm sure Esky will too. I still expected more out of this team despite the cold and the wind."
Rapid River resumes Monday at home against Marquette before hosting Gladstone on Tuesday. Escanaba will travel to play in the Pulaski, Wis. Invitational on Saturday. They're scheduled to play Freedom, Wis. in their first game before playing Algoma, Wis.