L'ANSE - One big inning with the bats and six innings of solid defense booked the Portage Lake Minor (9-10 years old) Little League team a date in the championship game with Negaunee in the District 11 tournament.
Portage eliminated Keweenaw Thursday in L'Anse, securing a 7-4 victory thanks to a five-run second inning and consistent pitching from Emmitt Larson, Chad Nordstrom and Nick Horning.
PL will play Negaunee tonight at 6 p.m., and if Portage wins, the deciding game will take place Saturday at the same time.
Portage Lake pitcher Emmitt Larson picks up a grounder and looks for first base to throw out the runner in a District 11 Minor (age 9-10)?tournament game against Keweenaw in L’Anse Thursday. Portage Lake advanced to tonight’s championship game with a 7-4 victory. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"We have just a real good group of kids, I couldn't be more proud of them," Portage Lake manager Paul Horning said. "This was a really solid team win today, with contributions from everyone. The best part was we played solid defense and had some good hits, and now our pitching is in a good position for both Friday and Saturday."
Keweenaw actually took an early lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Joel LaPage and Jackson Rilei both hit safely before advancing and scoring on wild pitches, while Caleb Klein drew a walk and then touched home after Tom Voelker's clinical sacrifice fly.
Portage bounced back immediately though, batting all nine in the second inning with Dylan Horning, Larson, Jonah Horning, Brandon Norkol and Caleb Bach all scoring.
The RBI's were provided by Larson, Jonah Horning and Nordstrom, with Bach bagging the big hit of the inning to plate two on a single.
"Especially with the young team you aren't sure how the kids will respond (to going down early) so it was a real nice to see them keep their heads up and take the lead right back," Horning said.
"We kept telling them it just takes one inning. We ran the bases smartly, and the whole order did a nice job getting on base."
Portage scored twice more in the fourth inning to extend the lead, with a perfectly weighted bunt single from John Sebbas doing the damage.
That was all the offense they would need, as reliever Nordstrom threw 2 1/3 innings of scoreless ball - including four strikeouts and an uber efficient six-pitch fourth frame - before Nick Horning toed the mound to close it out.
Horning said the team is looking at the two potential championship games with Negaunee as a whole new tournament.
"We are going to go after them real hard with our pitching," Horning said. "It is going to be a battle. The team that can hit the top pitchers is going to come out on top, and I think our team really responds better to fast pitches."