All-Stars: Keweenaw, Penokee Range earn wins Monday

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette The Marquette third baseman reaches for a throw while a Penokee Range baserunner rounds the base during a game in the Little League District 11 Tournament Monday in South Range.

SOUTH RANGE — After a busy weekend that saw teams open the Little League District 11 Tournament, play was back in action on Monday at Veterans Field in South Range with two games more games involving teams that needed wins to stay alive.

Keweenaw faced Baraga and Marquette battled Penokee Range during the doubleheader.

Monday’s game marked the third day of district play for the 8-10 year olds in South Range. The year-end tournament hosted by the local Portage Lake Little Minors team features six all-star teams from the western part of the Upper Peninsula. Portage Lake last hosted the tournament two years ago.

Along with the four teams playing yesterday and the hometown team of Portage Lake is an all-star squad from Neguanee, who will face each other Tuesday. The winners of this tournament will be one of 16 teams who will head to Dexter, Michigan, in August for the statewide Little League tournament.

In Game One, Keweenaw crushed Baraga 20-2 in just three innings due to the 10-run mercy rule. In short, an older, better-skilled Keweenaw team outplayed a younger Baraga team.

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette A Keweenaw baserunner slides home during an elimination game against Baraga in the Little League District 11 Tournament Monday in South Range.

“Our pitching was rough today,” said Baraga’s manager Nate Turpeinen. “We are a young team with a lot of eight and nine-year olds. We come here every year and seem to be outnumbered and outplayed. There is a big learning curve between eight-year olds and 10-year olds. But the kids have fun and we learn a lot, and that’s what’s important.”

Keweenaw, consisting of players from the Calumet and Lake Linden area, started off big with eight runs in the first inning. The runs came in on a combination of smart baserunning by them and poor fielding by Baraga. In the second, they tacked on 12 more in a similar fashion.

Through out the game, Baraga struggled to make routine plays such as fielding ground balls and making plays at first. Meanwhile continued to put the ball in play which caused runs to come in and add up.

“It was a nice win,” said Keweenaw’s manager Nick Hendrickson. “We did what we had to do. We put the bat on the ball and our pitchers threw strikes. We look forward to playing tomorrow.

Keweenaw will face Penokee Range in semifinal action.

Penokee earned their ticket to the semifinals by defeating Marquette in the second game yesterday 11-9.

In that game, it was the all-stars from Marquette that got the first tally in the first inning. Right fielder Evan Brown reached first on an error and made it home on a combination of steals and wild pitches.

In the second inning, Penokee came back and took the lead with three runs of their own. Pitcher Chase Lane and centerfielder Cory Aspinwall started off the inning with back-to-back hits. second baseman Trevyn McLaughlin then walked. All three scored on wild pitches to make the score 3-1 after two.

Their bats remained hot in the third as they tacked on another three runs with hits by Cayden Harju and Brendon Aukee.

However, Marquette was not without some magic of their own in their sticks as they posted three runs in that inning to make the score 6-4 in Penokee’s favor.

That is how that game stayed until the fifth inning when Marquette added two runs to tie the game at six. Trey Niemi got things started with a walk and stole second. He came in on a Cooper Anderson double. Anderson eventually made it home on a wild pitch.

Heading into the sixth and final inning, it was anybody’s game. With two outs in the top of the sixth Penokee Range mounted an impressive five-run rally. It started with walks to Kameron Grahm and Harju. Then Aukee got his second base hit of the night as did Aspinwall to bring in the runs and eventually themselves.

With just three outs to go, Marquette did mount a rally. They scored three runs on two hits by outfielder Wes Robinson and second baseman Charlie Hrodey, but it was too little too late as Penokee held onto the victory and a chance to play Tuesday against Keweenaw.

Despite the loss, Marquette was pleased with the way their team performed.

“It was a good game today,” their manager said. “The better team won. We played hard, and our boys didn’t give up.”

Corey Aspinwall, Penokee Range’s manager, liked the spirit of his kids which he thought kept them in the game till the end.

“The players were happy and having fun, and that is what Little League is all about,” he said. ” I was also very pleased with our pitchers who threw strikes. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Tuesday, at Veterans Field, Keweenaw will face Penokee Range at 4 p.m. and Portage Lake will take on Negaunee at 6 p.m.