South Range VFW battles back from early deficit to win

Jamie Glenn/Daily Mining Gazette South Range VFW’s Jamie Larson delivers a pitch during a game against Pat’s Foods Wednesday during Portage Lake Little League Minors action.

SOUTH RANGE — In Portage Lake Little League Minors action Wednesday at Veterans Field in South Range, for two innings, it appeared that Pat’s Foods was in cruise control, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. South Range VFW’s bats finally got going in the third, and they never looked back, outscoring Pats’ 17-4 over the remainder of the contest to win, 17-11.

“Never give up,” said South Range VFW assistant coach John O’Kane. “(We) were down 7-0 in the (second) inning and what’d they do? They fought back and they won. It’s a good rule of thumb, never give up. Good sportsmanship, but you never give up.”

Fynn Pennala got the bats going early for Pat’s with a walk to lead things off. Nolan Hanner followed with a single as did Tyler Isaacson. All three scored before South Range could get out of the inning.

Things continued in that manner for Pat’s in the second as, with two outs, Pennala was hit by a pitch. Hanner doubled, Isaacson doubled, and Cole Seppanen walked. All four scored with Seppanen getting home on a double by Lucas Mayra.

While it was a quite a rough first two innings for South Range, once their bats started rolling, they did not look back.

Jackson Williams got things started in the top of the third by drawing a walk. Kameron Johnson was then hit by a pitch. Brexton Kinnunen reached on a single. All three scored. Porter Markham singled and Ethan Kilpela walked. Both later scored.

South Range continued to threaten as Liam O’Kane and Landyn Heinonen both drew walks, but neither could advance any further than second base.

In the fourth, South Range continued to remain hot at the plate. Graham Johnson walked and later scored. Johnson, Kinnunen both walked and later scored as well. Jamie Larson doubled and Markham walked. Both scored as the VFW jumped ahead 10-7.

“They stayed in the game,” said coach O’Kane. “They stayed positive, they pitched very well, they kept the ball in front of them. We’ve got to work on swinging the bats. We have to not be scared of the ball and swing the bats.

“Our next game is going to be Saturday out at EB Homan. We want to get a good night’s sleep, have some good breakfast (and) get out there and play some catch and swing the bats a little bit early (to) get some batting practice. (Then we can) go out there and hopefully win another game against Calumet.”

Pennala walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Hanner followed with a single. Both scored to help Pat’s get back within a run briefly.

“Our team is getting better (with) every game they play,” said Pat’s manager Jim Hanner. “The bats are getting stronger and the field is getting stronger. (It’s a) big improvement since day one.

“Their confidence is getting better with every game, (but) we had a couple errors. Nothing major in today’s game. It was a good game.”

South Range racked up another seven runs in the fifth as Heinonen, Johnson, Williams and Kinnunen all walked and later scored. Larson and Markham both singled and later scored. Noah Randell reached and scored his team’s final run.

Pennala scored the game’s final run as he reached on a fielder’s choice and later scored.

While Pat’s did not get the win, there was much of their game that their manager liked.

“I think our catcher Tyler Isaacson had a great game behind the plate,” said coach Hanner. “I think all around they all played a pretty good game. I think our first base coach Spencer Jankins is getting better every game.

“It was a good game. I was happy with it. I’m not happy with the results, but I’m happy with everything from our team. Every player in the order is ripping at the ball and getting on base and getting better.”