ISHPEMING - Portage Lake clawed its way into the Little League Major state baseball tournament being held in Ishpeming by winning five straight district elimination games.
The Copper Country all-star team of 11- and 12-year-olds will have to battle again if it hopes to capture a state title.
PL dropped a 3-2, seven-inning decision to Edwardsburg in pool play Friday and likely needs to win its next two games to qualify for the quarterfinals on Monday.
Portage Lake’s David Jukkila connects with a pitch in the top of the third inning against Edwardsburg during the Little League Major state tournament at the Ishpeming Ballfield Complex on Friday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"You expect the kids to be down, but we'll be ready to play Midland Northeast (at 10 a.m. today)," PL manager John Bostwick said. "The kids don't give up. If they did, we wouldn't be here."
PL broke out to a 2-0 first-inning lead over Edwardsburg, but couldn't do any more offensive damage.
"We had a shot to score some runs ... but just didn't get a hit when we needed it," the PL manager said.
Grosse Pointe Woods Shores 11, Iron Mountain 1
Ira Township 8, Midland Northeast 6
Taylor Northwest 3, Traverse City East 2
Edwardsburg 3, Portage Lake 2 (7 innings)
Birmingham 12, Tecumseh 2
Bay City Northwest 10, Grand Rapids Southern 0
Sault Ste. Marie 8, Roosevelt Park 6
West Portage 10, Ypsilanti Nationals 0
Field No. 1, Taylor Northwest vs. Iron Mountain, 10 a.m.; Grosse Pointe Woods Shores vs. Traverse City East, 12:30 p.m.; Grand Rapids Southern vs. Tecumseh, 3 p.m.; Birmingham vs. Bay City Northwest, 5:30 p.m.
Field No. 2, Portage Lake vs. Midland Northeast, 10 a.m.; Ira Township vs. Edwardsburg, 12:30 p.m.; West Portage vs. Sault Ste. Marie, 3 p.m.; Roosevelt Park vs. Ypsilanti Nationals, 5:30 p.m.
A wild pitch brought in one run for PL and Ashton Janke hit an RBI single for another in the opening frame.
"We also had a runner thrown out at the plate," Bostwick noted.
Edwardsburg responded with a run in the first, tied the score in the second and won the game in the extra inning after Garon Carrubba led off with a double to center.
Austin Williams then attempted a sacrifice bunt that resulted in a wild throw to first and brought Carrubba home with the decisive run.
PL stranded two runners in the sixth and saw a line drive by Kevin Bostwick to the pitcher in the seventh result in a double play.
"We were one hit away from making noise," John Bostwick said, "while (Edwardsburg) had one hit more than we did."
Alex Nordstrom and Kevin Bostwick joined losing hurler Janke with hits for PL.
Coming back from adversity is nothing new for PL. The team lost its second District 11 tournament game, then ran off five wins in a row in elimination contests to advance.
"We had seven games in seven days, all in Ironwood, which is a two-hour drive from Houghton," manager Bostwick said.
"We scored 75 runs in those five games and mercied (our opponents) four times, which helped our pitching."
In the second district championship game against Ishpeming, PL trailed 7-0 after three innings before rallying for a 9-7 victory to clinch the state tournament berth.
"We've had our backs to the wall," Bostwick said. "But it's not about how many times you get knocked down. It's how many times you get back up."
He attributes his team's resolve to leadership.
"We have four kids back from state tournament play last year and for two of them, this is the fourth district championship we've won," Bostwick said.
"We have a lot of leadership. The kids have been in a lot of dogfights, close games and elimination games.
"I'm proud of the kids," he added. "This is a great experience for them."
Following today's Midland Northeast game, PL is scheduled to play Ira Township in the final round of pool play at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com.