By ERIC BENAC
News Sports Writer
The Alpena Community College softball team had already played and lost eight away games before making its home debut on Friday with a doubleheader against Delta.
Although the Lumberjacks had strong moments, including an Ashleigh Monticello home run, they lost the first game in a 9-1 mercy in the fifth inning and the second game in a 21-7 fifth-inning mercy.
"We struggled on hitting tonight and if we would have had some stronger hits we would have done a lot better. We left too many people stranded on the bases," ACC coach Erin Riopelle said.
Interestingly, coming to Alpena was a lot like coming home for Delta pitcher Maci Schook, a former Hillman resident.
"It's pretty nice seeing all the girls I used to play against in high school. When I'm down there (at Delta) I never know any of the girls, but here's it's like 'Hey! I remember her!'" Shook said.
By the time Monticello came to bat in the second inning, ACC was down 2-0 and had yet to get a hit. Its first hit of the night was Monticello's monster homer which narrowed the game 2-1.
ACC pitcher Sara Mairose did a solid job of pitching early in the game, but Delta's bats were strong and they kept finding the ball. She struck out two batters in the first two innings and was able to keep Delta to a 2-1 score until the fourth inning.
The Lumberjacks had a hard time connecting with Schook's pitches, but Cassandra Shaw was able to pick up two hits in two at bats, while Lindsey Ponik picked up a single in the fourth.
Both Shaw and Ponik were left on base in the fourth inning.
Leaving these hitters stranded ended up hurting ACC's chance of winning as solid hitting by Kelsey Paape, Kara Engelhardt and Schook helped Delta jump to a 6-1 lead. Paape, Engelhardt and Schook each earned an RBI.
Delta then scored another three runs in the fifth inning, including a two-run homer by Engelhardt that put Delta up 9-1.
Alex Chmura, who relieved Mairose in the fifth drew a walk in the bottom of the inning while Karena Hipkins got a single, but it was too little too late.
The Lumberjacks finally came alive in the second game, scoring three runs in the first inning. Lauren Seibert and Leann Strzlecki both stole home and Alyssa Griffore knocked in Monticello to end the first inning with ACC ahead 3-1.
The second inning saw increased pressure from Delta as the Pioneers picked up five more runs while ACC was able to pick up a single run.
Delta took control in the third inning, scoring 14 runs and went through their lineup twice before the Jacks were able to get three outs. They picked up 13 hits, while Ponik gave up only two walks.
"There isn't much you can do when the other team starts a hitting streak. There were no errors on the field and nobody made any mistakes. They (Delta hitters) just kept finding the holes," Riopelle said.
By the time the inning was over, Ponik was out and Laura Lewis took over as pitcher, but the damage was done. Every girl on the Delta squad had scored at least once and game was 20-4 with ACC up to bat.
To its credit, ACC was able to start hitting solidly enough to score two runs in the third, which included RBIs by Chmura and Seibert, driving in Griffore and Shaw. This was enough to narrow the score to 20-6.
Lewis was able to take out Delta 1-2-3 in the fourth by catching a pop fly and fielding two outs to first. Unfortunately, the Jacks were unable to get much offensive momentum going in the bottom of the inning.
By the fifth inning, ACC found out how to stop Delta in its tracks, holding them to a single run, while also scoring their own run off a Chmura steal, but the Lumberjacks were still mercied at the end of the inning.
A large banner hung off the back wall that included the names of the various donors who helped the ACC girls purchase new warm-up uniforms. They hang this banner in right field at their away and home games to show their appreciation to the donors.
ACC will host St. Clair today for a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. and will also play two games on Sunday against the Skippers starting at 11 a.m.