L'ANSE - Monday was a day for the Copper Country Comeback Kids.
The Portage Lake Minor (9-10 year old) All-Stars and the Keweenaw Minor All-Stars both rallied from huge deficits in the District 11 Tournament to post last-inning dramatic victories.
In the first game, PL scored nine runs in the top of the sixth inning - after managing just two in the previous five - to turn a four-run disadvantage against Negaunee into an 11-6 win. Keweenaw somehow topped even that comeback, trailing by eight runs to Ishpeming with just three outs remaining before the KLL All-Stars plated nine runs in the bottom of the sixth, ending with a walk-off RBI single from Brevin Antilla, scoring Noah Bach and sparking a frenzied celebration.
Negaunee All-Stars pitcher Jaden Grobar delivers against Portage Lake in a Little League Minors District 11 tournament game in?L’Anse on Monday. Negaunee lost, resulting in an elimination game against Kewaunee tonight in L’Anse. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Michael Bleach)
It was the second comeback win in a row for Keweenaw, which also rallied against Marquette over the weekend. Keweenaw will play again tonight against Negaunee for a spot in the championship game.
Meanwhile, Portage Lake's victory secured a place in the championship game Wednesday.
"Oh man. Pretty cool. Pretty cool," Portage Lake's Davin Hill, who recorded two hits and two runs in the win, said.
Scott Loukus led Keweenaw with two hits - including a triple in the sixth-inning rally - and three RBIs. Loukus also picked up the win, pitching the final two innings. Bach, Landon Johnson (2 RBIs) and Carter Crouch (2 RBIs) also blasted triples for KLL. Nine total players reached base safely for Keweenaw.
In the top of the sixth for Portage Lake, P.J. Donnelly started the rally with a double - and later helped finish it with an RBI single as the order batted around with seven hits in the frame.
Several well-struck singles from Colton Salani and Colin Cowell and a walk from Isaiah Little set the table for Eli Larson, however, with PL still trailing by three.
Larson proceeded to clear the bases with a booming triple to right-center. He then scored the go-ahead run on a busted pickle play from Shawn Ruotsala's RBI fielder's choice.
With one more "he then," Larson closed out the victory on the pitching mound with three outs on the infield.
"That was a pressure situation and you guys were awesome," PL coach Aaron Janke told the team after the game. "That was pretty darn fun."
Portage Lake recorded 13 hits on the day while Keweenaw bagged 12.
The wins were especially gratifying as both Copper Country teams fought off self-inflicted adversity to comeback.
Portage Lake needed to use three pitchers and Keweenaw called on four. For Keweenaw, the All-Stars dug themselves in a seven-run hole while just allowing one hit through the first two innings.
"That was awesome, just awesome," Portage Lake coach Don Hill said. "Hitting is contagious, you know. You just need someone to start off with that one hard hit like P.J. (Donnelly) did for us and confidence starts to grow. Especially when you can force out the starting pitcher, everyone is ready to hit the ball hard.
"And that's why you play six innings. Coach (Chris) Salani told them before the game, one play is not going to win or lose the game. It is a six-inning marathon and you need to be there as teammates to pick each other up."