The Gladstone softball team poses with its MHSAA Division 3 District 33 Championship trophy after defeating Menominee in Gladstone Friday.
GLADSTONE — This habit may never grow old for Gladstone softball teams.
Gladstone was crowned district champion for the 21st straight time here Friday in an 8-0 triumph over the Menominee Maroons in a Division 3 final.
The victory enables the Braves to play in a regional opener on their home field for the first time June 11 at noon against Boyne City.
Gladstone needed just three innings to dispatch Manistique 16-0 in its opener. Menominee reached the championship game by defeating Iron Mountain 14-4 in five frames.
Sophomore Montgomery Pepin tossed a two-hitter against the Maroons, striking out 13 and walking six through six frames.
The Braves led by two runs after three innings prior to adding three runs in the fourth.
“My dropball worked pretty well, and I think my change-up kept them off-balance,” said Pepin, who struck out the side in the opening frame. “Once we went up by five runs, I was able to relax a little more for sure. We’re pretty excited for the regional. I’m proud of the way my teammates played.”
Aliana Martinez’s safety squeeze bunt drove in Gladstone’s third run, and a throwing error on the play gave the Braves a four-run cushion.
“That changed the complexion of the game,” said Braves coach Rick Pepin. “Overall, we didn’t perform very well at the plate, but the safety squeeze and overthrow gave us a little bit of breathing room. We knew it was going to be a good day when Montgomery struck out the first three hitters. Montgomery and Lauren (Sundquist) make a good team. It’s almost like they can read each other’s mind.”
Samantha Drielick’s ground out to the shortstop gave the Braves a five-run advantage in the fourth, and her single to left-centerfield made it 6-0 in the sixth.
Moments later, the Braves concluded the scoring on Addie Trombley’s two-run single to right.
Sundquist provided the Braves with leadoff home runs in both games, including one to left against the Maroons.
“That just set the tone in both games,” said coach Pepin. “Lauren stays after practice every day and gets more swings. Reese Herioux is becoming solid at the plate, and Samantha (Drielick) has been our designated player for two years and embraced that role. Time and time again she delivers. The moment never seems to get too big for her. She keeps her emotions in check.”
Trombley then gave the Braves a two-run cushion on Montgomery Pepin’s grounder to short in the opening frame of the title contest.
The Braves collected eight hits, including a pair by Herioux off sophomore Kam Olson, who also went the distance and fanned three and walked six.
“The girls improved all year,” said Menominee coach Jim Berger. “I thought we played well today. Kam pitched five innings against Iron Mountain. Then she pitched all of this game and got a little tired in the end. We’re losing a few seniors who are big hitters, but the younger kids will come around. The throwing error on their safety squeeze stung a little. Although, it was nice to win a district game. That gave us a confidence boost for sure.”
Samara Sanville provided the Braves with four RBIs against Manistique.
Prior to that game, the late Candace Swetkis of Escanaba, who lost her battle with cancer April 30 at age 76, was honored for her contributions to area softball.
She played fastpitch softball for 36 years and taught earth science to eighth-graders in Escanaba throughout her 27-year teaching career.