NORWAY - Stellar pitching and timely hitting sent Kingsford past Portage Lake 2-1 in the Little League baseball junior sectional championship Sunday at Norway's Marion Park.
Daunte Fortner checked the Copper Country crew to one hit while Darren Wood singled home Hunter Lindeman with both runs to decide the best-of-three series.
"These kids played their butts off," said an emotional Kingsford manager Chad Lindeman. "They've practiced so hard for the past two weeks."
Portage Lake catcher Aaron Barnes tags out Kingsford’s Nick McCole and umpire Mike Muraro makes the call Saturday in the Little League baseball junior sectional tournament at Norway’s Marion Park. (Daily News photo by Burt Angeli)
In Saturday's tourney games, Portage Lake outscored Kingsford 14-11 in the opener. The second contest went to Kingsford 12-4.
"Nobody expected us to go this far," Lindeman said. "I'm so proud of these kids."
Fortner, who stymied Portage Lake with off-speed pitches, yielded an infield single to Clayton Sayen to start the game. That was the extent of Portage Lake's hitting.
"Daunte, unbelievable effort," Lindeman said. "He was great.
"I asked him, 'to not walk guys, throw strikes and let our defense do its work,' and he did exactly what we asked him to."
Portage Lake pitcher Pat Cortright spaced seven Kingsford hits and struck out five.
Three of those hits came in the third inning when Kingsford pushed across its first run. Lindeman's bunt single and stolen base set up Wood for his first RBI.
Portage Lake knotted the score in the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Two-out walks to Grant Hokenson, Pat Cortright and Justin Norkol brought home Aaron Barnes.
Cortright, a feared power hitter, was walked intentionally three times Sunday.
In the bottom of the fifth, Kingsford's duo of Lindeman bunting and Wood delivering with a base hit provided the deciding run. Austin VanPembrook bunted Lindeman from second to third.
"Hunter can run and Woody can hit," the Kingsford manager said of his son and Wood. "That's a great combination.
"These guys (team) have been coming through every single time in big situations."
Luke Terrian, who replaced Fortner on the mound with two outs in the sixth, finished up with three strikeouts.
Fortner, Lindeman and Wood each tagged two hits in the final. Ed Plumley doubled in the sixth inning.
VanPembrook slugged five hits, knocked in three runs and scored twice in the second game Saturday. Grant Hokenson had two of Portage Lake's eight hits.
Sayen, playing centerfield, made a pivotal catch in the opener for Portage Lake.
Kingsford travels this week to Onsted for the state tournament.
"We'll take her one game at a time right now," Lindeman said of his team's state hopes.