Negaunee Minors find needed good pitcher with possible 4 games in 4 days

MARQUETTE – Negaunee found a much-needed source of pitching on Monday night in a 7-3 victory over Baraga in the Little League Minors baseball district tournament.

Mason Banfield worked 4 1/3 innings in the middle of the game, allowing two runs on two hits when his team built its lead at the North Field Complex in Marquette.

He followed starter 8-year-old Morgan Robar, who allowed one run on one hit while pitching the first inning, and preceded Braiden Noskey, who completed the game with strikeouts of the only batters he faced in the sixth.

“I’m real proud of our young pitchers,” Negaunee manager Todd Saunders said. “Morgan got us started out well, then Mason pitched fantastic; he was an efficient worker.

“Morgan has been little used on the mound, but he really stepped up.”

Negaunee, which is now 2-1 after a win over Marquette-White and loss to Portage Lake over the weekend, will need all its arms as it tries to march through the elimination bracket to a title in this tourney for 8- to 10-year-olds.

That’s because the team will have to play – and win – four more games in four days to take the title in this eight-team, double-elimination event.

On Monday, Negaunee scored twice in the first inning to take a 2-1 lead, then added a run in the second and three more in the third to go up 6-2.

“We played great defense behind them,” Saunders said of his pitchers. “James Thomson had a couple fantastic plays at second base and Gavin Saunders made a good throw from the outfield to the cutout man when we got one of their runners out at home.”

Saunders and Noskey each had a double, Saunders knocking in three runs while Noskey also drew a walk. Teammate Evan Gauthier had a long single nearly to the fence that knocked in two more runs.

“We’ve watched this team improve dramatically in the last two weeks,” Todd Saunders said. “We only have three returning players (from last year’s all-star team).”

Baraga completed its run in the tourney after losing to Marquette-Red and defeating Gwinn over the weekend.

Play for Negaunee resumes at 6 p.m. today against Penokee Range, which defeated Marquette-Red in Monday’s other game.

Today’s other game, also at 6 p.m. at an adjacent field, will be the winner’s bracket final between Ishpeming and Portage Lake. Each team is 2-0, Ishpeming having beaten Gwinn and Marquette-Red, while PL has taken out Penokee and Negaunee.

The Ishpeming-PL winner advances to the championship round that begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, while the loser faces the Negaunee-Penokee winner at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the other spot in the finals.

If the elimination bracket team wins Thursday, it forces a second championship game at 6 p.m. Friday.

In the Majors (10-12 years old) tourney held in South Range near Houghton, play was postponed Monday due to rain earlier in the day. The entire schedule has been pushed up a day with a pair of elimination bracket games today – Ishpeming vs. Marquette at 4 p.m. and Negaunee vs. Keweenaw at 6 p.m.

That has moved the championship round up to 6 p.m. Friday, and if necessary, 4 p.m. Saturday.