SOUTH RANGE -Marquette's Major (age 11-12) Little League All-Stars have hit on a winning formula.
A couple homers, a complete game from pitcher Blake Henriksen and some clutch play with two outs proved enough to give Marquette a 7-1 victory over Ishpeming in the second championship game of the District 11 tournament Sunday.
Marquette joins a field of 16 at the next stop on the road to South Williamsport, Pa., the state tournament, which begins Friday in the Muskegon area.
"It's all about the kids. It's all about the boys we've got. They've battled, they never give up, they pick each other up. My job's easy, the coaches' job is pretty easy. They're the guys that have got the tough job and they just keep battling. They never give up," Marquette manager Don Erkkila said.
Henriksen got the better of a duel of aces with Ishpeming's A.J. Suardini, finishing a complete game just before his pitch cap when leftfielder Jake Allard-Soucey tracked down what sounded like a no-doubter off the bat of Ishpeming slugger Otto Swanson.
Tyler Delmont opened the scoring with a solo shot in the top of the fourth before Henriksen significantly aided his own cause with a two-run homer in the fifth.
Ishpeming finally got its first hit off Henriksen when Jake Kugler took him deep on the first pitch of the bottom half of the inning.
Marquette added four insurance runs in the top of the sixth and led Henriksen take them himself, allowing only a double to Suardini and the deep fly ball.
"He's tough to square up. A lot of balls beaten to the ground today," Erkkila said.
Henriksen struck out eight and walked two. Suardini took the loss, allowing four runs in five-plus innings. He struck out five and walked two.
Saturday, Marquette made an early lead stick and then some.
Marquette added a five-run fourth inning to a four-run second inning, scoring all its runs in both frames with two outs, and forced a second championship game with an 11-4 win.
"The boys were hitting the ball with two outs. They didn't stop. They made every at-bat count," Erkkila said.
Marquette led Ishpeming 6-2 Thursday before losing 7-6.
Allard-Soucey hit Marquette into its first lead with a two-run single in the second. Braden Wright drew a walk and lead-off hitter Jake Peterson doubled both in for a 4-1 lead.
For Ishpeming, Suardini drove in Taylor Laurin for the second time in as many at-bats with an RBI single in the third (he also had a sacrifice fly in the first).
Marquette broke the game open just past the halfway point. After a leadoff single by Drew Lindberg and pitching wildness, Marquette had three runs on the board already when Henriksen delivered a two-run single.
That was more than enough for Delmont, who hit his pitch cap one batter before his team's second complete game of the tournament (Henriksen went the distance Tuesday vs. Keweenaw).
Delmont allowed two earned runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out nine and walked one.