ISHPEMING - He may not be the biggest player on his Bay City Northwest baseball squad, but Carson Cooley packs a punch at the plate.
Cooley hit a solo home run leading off the top of the eighth inning Tuesday to propel his squad to a 4-1 semifinal victory over West Portage in state Major (11-12) Little League tournament play in Ishpeming.
His drive over the fence in right-center field snapped a 1-1 deadlock and sent his squad to this morning's scheduled championship game against Grosse Pointe Woods Shores. The latter knocked off Birmingham, 2-0, earlier Tuesday.
West Portage’s Tyler Helgeson makes a throw to first base for the out in the semifinals of the Michigan Little League Majors Division state baseball tournament on Tuesday in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"Carson may weigh only 85 pounds, but he hits the ball hard," Bay City NW manager Mike Shore said. "He hit some home runs in our district tournament (as well as one Monday)."
The winners added two runs in the decisive frame, one on a bunt single by Cody Reagle and another on a bases-loaded error at third base.
"They've had this (title chance) in their sights for 1 1/2 months," Shore said of his players. "We had to fight for it today."
Today: Bay City Northwest vs. Grosse Pointe Woods Shores, 10 a.m., Ishpeming
That was because West Portage starting pitcher Tyler Helgeson allowed just one run - a solo homer by Evan Schlatter in the fourth - and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out five.
"He throws hard, has a good slider and a changeup," West Portage manager Bill Nelson said once the game was over.
Nelson didn't see the contest after being suspended for two games for a lineup irregularity during pool play.
Bay City NW hurler Adam Randall was perhaps even more impressive, giving up one hit - a solo round tripper by Helgeson in the bottom of the fourth - and fanning 11 over six innings of work.
"Our kids don't normally strike out that much," Nelson said.
Said Shore: "Randall is one of my work horses all season. He's one of our knockdown pitchers. We planned on using him for the entire game right from the start."
Both starting pitchers were relieved due to pitch count limits. Nick Dardas wound up getting the mound win, striking our four of the six batters he faced. Michael Verduzco was tagged with the loss.
"We're a good hitting team and a good ball club," Nelson said of his West Portage club. "It's always disappointing to lose.
"It was a great game, but we just didn't get it done."
Schlatter led the Bay City NW offense with three hits. Tyler David added two.
"This group, when they were 10 years old, played for the state title against Grosse Pointe Park," Shore said. "They know what it's like to play in big games and they want (the championship) bad.
"I've watched Grosse Pointe Woods Shores and they're a good team. We'll see their best and it'll be a battle.
"Hitting determines (the outcome in) big games," he added.
Grosse Pointe Woods Shores 2,
In the other semifinal Tuesday. GP Woods Shores scored twice in the top of the sixth - and final - inning to advance.
Ryan Shanley singled to lead off the frame and after a strikeout, Chad Lorkowski doubled to left-center.
A throw home from second on a grounder was off target and a run scored, then Ryan Duffy drew a bases-loaded walk for the winners' second run.
Winning pitcher Antonio Moceri struck out five in five innings of work, while losing hurler Jack Brockhaus fanned nine before being relieved after 5-plus innings.
GP Woods Shores posted six hits, with Shanley collecting two. Moceri allowed four Birmingham safeties before Lorkowski came on in the sixth and fanned the side for a save.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.