Pitch perfect

SOUTH RANGE – The debut of Little League All-Star teams can be nerve-racking for the players; but apparently, it’s the same for the coaches.

“I came into this game amazingly stressed out,” Portage Lake head coach Kit Cischke said of his team’s debut against Negaunee on Sunday. “but it’ll take all day to wipe this smile off my face.”

Cischke owes his smile to his team’s steady offense and stellar pitching in their flawless debut. Portage Lake’s Chad Nordstrom pitched 3 2/3 innings of perfect baseball on 35 pitches before Brandon Norkol came in for relief to get the final out, as Portage Lake kept Negaunee off the bases in a 10-0 four-inning victory in the second round of the Major’s District 11 Tournament (10-12-year olds) Sunday in South Range.

Sporting control across the strike zone, Nordstrom consistently blew his fastball by Negaunee hitters while also mixing in off-speed pitches to keep them out of synch. Nordstrom finished with eight strikeouts.

“He has some sort of inherent ideas about how to mix up his speeds,” Cischke said of Nordstrom. “Not only that, but he has a ton of control. When he wants to put the ball as a strike on the inside corner, that’s what where it goes.

“He mixes up speeds and is fast enough that the hitters can never settle in.”

Added Negaunee head coach Kevin Downey: “(Nordstrom) did exactly what you want a pitcher to do. He mixed in his off-speed stuff but threw strikes. At 11-12 years old, all you want your pitcher to do is throw strikes and make you put the ball in play. We just didn’t do that.”

Despite a perfect game within reach, Cischke pulled Nordstrom with two outs in the third. At 35 pitches, Nordstrom would be available to pitch after one day’s rest in Tuesday’s semifinal at 6 p.m.

“I definitely had our ace on the mound today, but I have five other pitchers that are almost as good as him that I can throw out there too,” Cischke said. “This isn’t a one-game tournament, so I would like to have him available on the mound for Tuesday.”

Before Nordstrom took the mound, Portage Lake opened the top of the first with a four-run inning. Dylan Primeau drove in Norkol for the game’s first run on a shallow fly ball to center field, while Nick Horning’s two-run line-drive RBI double to right and Cameron Cischke’s RBI groundout accounted for Portage Lake’s other three runs.

“I don’t know that we have a specific hitting approach,” Kit Cischke said. “Just swing at good pitches. We have a lot of batters who have a good eye and know what pitches are good to swing at and which aren’t.”

Portage Lake finished with seven hits, as Primeau and Horning each led the team with two.

In addition to not reaching base, Negaunee had its troubles in the field, surrendering five unearned runs on three errors.

“I’m always proud of the way they played, but our communication wasn’t very good. We need to make those plays,” Downey said. “When the balls are hit to you, you have to make routine plays. None of them are difficult, and they were routine that we make every day. But now we have to forget about that and look forward to playing on Monday.”

Negaunee’s Preston Toutant earned the start on the mound and went 2 2/3 innings and allowed five earned runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Negaunee faces Keweenaw at 6 p.m. tonight.

Portage Lake’s Dylan Horning and Gaborik Carlson each scored twice to lead the winners.