HANCOCK - There was no big pile-up on the mound, no Gatorade cooler over the manager's head.
After defeating Portage Lake 11-7 for the District 11 championship, the Ishpeming Junior (age 13-14) All-Stars acted like they'd been there before.
Because they had - for many of the 14-year-olds in the group, it was a fourth district championship in the last five years.
Ishpeming’s Marcus Antilla forces out Portage Lake’s Alan Jurmu at the plate for the first out of a 5-2-3 double play in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s District 11 Junior League tournament championship game at Hancock Driving Park. The play started on Alex Nettell’s hard-hit grounder to third baseman Travis Fredy. Ishpeming went on to win 11-7. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Brandon Veale)
"The most coachable kids that I've coached," Ishpeming manager Ryan Mahoski called them. "They work. Their homework is done during practice."
That drill was put to good use against a Portage Lake team playing on its home diamond that gave Ishpeming a challenge from beginning to end, but couldn't match hits and arms.
Portage Lake had pulled to within 4-3 after Brad Juntunen's grounder was mishandled in the infield, allowing Cole Jepsen to score.
Lee Markham drew a walk to load the bases, but the Ishpeming defense went around the horn in a different direction, turning Alex Nettell's hard-hit grounder into a rare 5-2-3 double play to get out of the inning.
Having repelled Portage Lake's opportunity, Ishpeming grew one of its own despite a pair of strikeouts early in the sixth inning.
Dylan Sundberg and Marcus Antilla recorded a pair of two-RBI singles as part of a seven-run frame that put the visitors up 11-3.
To their credit, Portage Lake didn't throw in the towel, responding immediately with four runs in the bottom of the inning on a Carter Puuri RBI groundout, a Juntunen sacrifice fly, an error on Justin Ruotsala's fly to right and a Jepsen RBI single.
In the seventh, Portage Lake drew three walks and brought the tying run to the plate, but Alan Jurmu's hard-hit ball through the box was tipped just enough by pitcher Luke Kuliu to allow second baseman Connor Hanlon to catch up, record the game-ending forceout and deny Jurmu his fourth hit of the game.
Ishpeming advances to a sectional series against a District 10 (Southern U.P) team.
Ishpeming got two hits and two RBIs apiece from Sundberg, Kuliu and Travis Fredy. Kuliu relieved starter Austin Corp in the fourth and got the save, allowing two earned runs on four hits in 3 1/3 innings. Corp held on to the win, allowing two unearned runs on two hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
Both pitchers will be fully available for the sectional series, which starts with a doubleheader Saturday.