LAKE LINDEN - There must be something in that Portage Lake water.
For the second time in as many days, a PL Little League All-Star squad treated parents, siblings and those ever-supportive grandparents to a dramatic last inning victory over a District 11 Tournament opponent, this time Marquette. The Portage Lake Major (11-12 years old) squad overcame an early five-run deficit with a seven-run third inning Tuesday, and then won in walk-off fashion with a bases-loaded Jaden Janke single in the bottom of the sixth inning to secure a 9-8 victory and spot in the championship game Thursday.
This came on the heels of the Portage Lake Minor All-Stars earning their own spot in the District 11 championship game Monday after a nine-run sixth inning erased a four-run deficit against Negaunee.
Jaden Janke (unseen) is mobbed by teammates after driving in the winning run Tuesday of Portage Lake’s 9-8 win over Marquette. Portage Lake will appear in the championship game Thursday. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"That was very exciting," Portage Lake coach John Bostwick said. "You know, it didn't start off the way we wanted it to with a couple of errors that put us in a 5-0 hole, but the boys pulled their attitudes back together - they were down in the dumps for a bit - and we scored some runs, got a spark and took the lead.
"You couldn't script it any better."
Carson Turner, the starting pitcher for PL, provided the spark that led to the offensive fire.
After intimidating three-hole hitter Pat Cortright drew a walk, the lefty-swinging Turner blasted a pitch in the third inning to deep-right center, clearing the fence amidst a chorus of cheers.
The two-run homer tied up the game at five-all - with Brody Budweg, Dawson Kero and Kevin Bostwick all scoring earlier in the inning on wild pitches - and gave an emotional boost to a lineup which plated Alex Nordstrom and Carter Nettell later in the inning to turn a five-run deficit into a two-run lead.
Taking advantage of eight walks and 10 bases from wild pitches, Portage Lake needed just nine hits in the contest to score the nine runs. Also, it was the third home run in three games from Turner - which just so happened to be his first three home runs of the season.
"At this age, they don't see that very often and it provides a big boost to the team," Bostwick said. "He has hit one in every game so far, which are the first three of his life. They couldn't come at better times. Each (home run) has been key to our success."
Portage Lake was able to seal the comeback in the bottom of the sixth with the game tied at eight-all.
Cortright led off the inning with a four-pitch walk, and bunt singles from Turner and Nordstrom loaded the bases to set the stage for Janke.
With the Marquette infield in, Janke pulled a line drive down the left field line to drive in the winning run and send Portage Lake to the championship game.
According to coach Bostwick, the imposing Cortwright has scored all five times he has taken a base on balls this tournament.
"He is a big kid and of course, with a kid his size, and the game on the line he is thinking one thing - put one in the lake," Bostwick said. "But we have been stressing to him, 'Hey, just get on base.' And he did a great job."
Thursday, Portage Lake will meet either Marquette or Penokee Range, a 9-8 winner over Ishpeming in the early game. Penokee trailed 8-1 after 4 1/2 innings and had to score four in the sixth to send it to extra innings.