By Dan Hardenbrook

The 2023 season had been a frustrating road for the Newberry Lady Indians. It was a road that left them winless until the final week, when things started clocking for Coach Bruce Dake and the ladies. Showing steady improvement despite their struggles, the Lady Indians peaked at the right time, winning two of their last three games, including the district opener against Rapid River on Saturday.

Last Tuesday the team traveled to Manistique, where they were desperately seeking win number one. The breakthrough came in the second half of their double header against the Lady Emeralds. With Manistique runners on second and third and nobody out, pitcher Alazayah Depew made the play of the year for Newberry.

Depew tossed a pitch, then made a diving catch for out number one. Manistique’s second-base runner took off, assuming there was a double-play was impossible. But once Depew secured the ball, she fired it to third base, where Allie Whalen made the double play. Whalen rocketed the ball to Amelia Shanley at second base to pick off the final runner, creating a game-winning triple play and a long-awaited, well-earned first win at 18-11.

The Lady Indians carried that momentum into the MHSAA Division 4 District Tournament held Friday in Rapid River. The Lady Indians opened the games against the host Rapid River Rockets. Backed by a deep offensive attack and a strong pitching performance, the Lady Indians made it two wins in a row, shocking the Rockets 17-6 to reach the District Finals.

Sitting and waiting in 90+ degree weather, the Lady Indians watched Superior Central dominate Munising in the other semifinal. Superior Central Cougars pitcher Sammy Johnson threw a no hitter to get the Lady Cougars into the final, where they controlled the Lady Indians 19-4. It was Superior Central’s first district title in over a decade.

Lady Indians Coach Bruce Dake credited the Cougars and was proud of his team’s performance.

“I think back-to-back games just got us, but Superior Central was the better team. It was a good ball game,” said Dake. “I think our pitching and defense was pretty good today. We gave up a few walks but in their last game Superior Central hit the ball well the whole game. Their pitcher was very good but their hitting was fantastic.”

Dake said his original plan was to rotate his top three pitchers, but one made it almost impossible to take her out. “We were going to use all three pitchers, but Shanley made us keep her in there. It was her best pitching of the entire year,” Dake said. “In both games we had runners on every inning which also hadn’t happened all year.”

It shows the growth of a young team that is on the rise.

“We only had two seniors,” Dake said. “I am sorry to see them go, but we have other talented players coming up. Over the next couple of years we are going to be very good. We played really well today. We just got beat by a better team.”

Brice Burge contributed to this report.