GLADSTONE - A trio of South Portage pitchers proved very effective Friday as they combined on a no-hitter in an 18-1 softball rout of the Negaunee Major Girls' Little League All-Stars (age 11-12) in four innings on the opening day of the state tournament.
They also struck out nine of the 14 hitters they faced, with starter Maddie Bell whiffing four of the six batters she faced. Lexie Hughes then struck out the side in the third and Rachel Pijaszek fanned three and walked two in the fourth.
"We're pretty deep with pitching," South Portage manager Tim Bell said. "When the girls are throwing strikes and hitting the way they're capable, we're usually pretty successful."
South Portage, the defending state champion, returns to Howes Family Field to face Taylor Northwest today at noon and Escanaba at noon Sunday.
Negaunee meets Escanaba today at noon and Taylor Northwest Sunday at 10 a.m. on Cannon Field.
South Portage wasted little time gaining the upper hand Friday.
The winners scored 10 times on nine hits in the first inning before adding eight runs in the fourth.
"It always helps to put a few runs on the board in the first inning," Bell said. "The girls are committed to being confident. They've been through tournament pressure before. "
Hannah Voskuhl scored for Negaunee on a fielder's choice in the fourth.
"The girls didn't give up," Negaunee manager Tom Beckman said. "They (South Portage) are a tough team. They have three tough pitchers and we weren't hitting the ball today.
"For many of our girls, this is the first experience with something like this. One loss doesn't eliminate us.
"We just need to hit the ball, get runners on base and be aggressive."
Jessica Poole, the first of three Negaunee pitchers, absorbed the loss.
South Portage finished with 15 hits, led by Madyson Cole and Pijaszek with three each. Maddie Bell and Kayla Blett had two apiece.
In other action Friday, Northwest beat Escanaba, 5-2; St. Clair blanked Jackson West, 20-0; Tecumseh whipped Constantine, 11-1; and Western Grand Rapids clubbed Essexville Hampton, 19-3.