L'ANSE - Getting one of their first tastes of postseason showdowns to come across the sporting spectrum, Portage Lake and Keweenaw's Minor (age 9-10) Little League teams will face off tonight for one spot in the District 11 championship game.
Negaunee played match-maker by defeating Keweenaw 6-4 Wednesday for the first spot in the championship game Friday. Portage Lake made it through its second elimination game in as many nights by dismissing Marquette 8-1.
"I'm very proud of the way these kids hit the ball. They've been in it all along. We didn't expect to be here, a lot of people didn't expect us to be where we're at right now, but the confidence level for these kids is really growing now and we're really looking forward to Friday," Negaunee manager Don Gladwell said.
Keweenaw’s Tom Voelker scores on a single by Marcus Sutherland in the fourth inning of a District 11 Minor (age 9-10)?tournament game vs. Negaunee at Bill Jarvey Memorial Field in L’Anse. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Negaunee's first four batters of the game reached base and the Irontown 9 jumped out to an early 3-0 lead but Keweenaw climbed back into it. Marcus Sutherland led off the top of the third with a single, Keweenaw's first hit, and came around to score their first run. In the top of the fourth, Jackson Rilei and Mason Codere both singled and
came around to score, and Sutherland's second hit of the game drove in Tom Voelker to give Keweenaw the lead.
Negaunee responded immediately with three runs on four hits and an error in the bottom of the inning to take the lead back.
Pitcher Joe Mallett kept Keweenaw under wraps down the stretch, striking out four of the seven batters he faced over the last two innings.
"We didn't make the little plays today," Keweenaw manager Jeff Klein said.
Sutherland, with two singles, was the only Keweenaw player to have a multi-hit game.
For Negaunee, Preston Toutant and Will Berg had two singles apiece.
Just like Negaunee, Portage Lake put its stamp on the late game quickly: Caleb Bach walked, Chad Nordstrom singled, Austin Salani tripled, Dylan Primeau singled and all four ended up scoring to start the game.
"The bats swung real nice. I think our team was focused more tonight and more comfortable," PL manager Paul Horning said.
After nearly batting around in the first inning, PL sent seven to the plate in the second: Walks for Brandon Norkol and Bach and singles by Salani and Primeau led to three more runs.
Austin Ridl singled and scored in the bottom of the first for Marquette, but the PL pitching trio of Salani, Nordstrom and Nick Horning kept the red squad quiet for the rest of the day, combining on a two-hitter.
"We had a good, solid defense, pitching, infield and outfield. I have all faith in the infield and our team on defense," Paul Horning said.
Salani had a single, double and triple for PL, while Nordstrom and Primeau had two hits apiece.