ESCANABA - The bats warmed up for the Negaunee Minors softball Little League all-stars in the late innings Monday afternoon as they surged to an 11-5 triumph over Kingsford in the first elimination round of the state softball tournament.
The 9- and 10-year-old Negaunee girls collected seven of their nine hits in the last three innings, including four in a four-run sixth off Kingsford's Kate Cook.
"It took awhile for our girls to get their timing down," Negaunee manager Mark Menhennick said. "She (Cook) pitched a little different style and speed and forced us to adjust. We hadn't seen that before."
Karlie Patron of Negaunee pitches during the first inning of a Minor Little League State Tournament game against Kingsford Monday in Escanaba. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin Marietti)
Negaunee, the lone Upper Peninsula team remaining in the tourney, faces Clare at noon today in a quarterfinal matchup on the West Field at Lemerand Park.
Monday's contest was tied 5-5 after four innings, but Negaunee went ahead 7-5 in the top of the fifth by taking advantage of two errors and Skylar Hall's leadoff triple to right field.
Kingsford then had baserunners on second and third with one out in its half of the fifth, but was unable to score.
"Shutting them down in the fifth inning was a boost for our kids," Menhennick said. "That triggered some momentum going into the sixth. We've been getting consistent hitting from our girls and they've been running the bases well."
Besides its four hits, Negaunee took advantage of two miscues while finishing the scoring in the sixth.
Winning pitcher Karlie Patron threw a one-hitter and struck out the side in the first and sixth innings. She finished with 17 strikeouts and allowed eight walks.
"They had the best athlete (Patron) on the field," Kingsford manager Jerry Roberge said. "Our hitters couldn't catch up with her."
Katelyn Lammi, Shaylee Menhennick and Morgan Carlson had two hits apiece for Negaunee.
Cook fanned one and walked none through six innings of work.
Claire Mongrain had Kingsford's lone hit, an RBI single to right that tied the score at 2-2 in the third. Mongrain then scored on an error to give her team a 3-2 lead.
Negaunee, taking advantage of three miscues, then scored three times for a 5-3 cushion in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Kingsford tied the score 5-5 by cashing in on three walks and two wild pitches.
There were 11 errors in the contest, 10 of them by Kingsford.
"The kids were a little nervous out there and the errors caught up with us," Roberge said. "Ordinarily, I would put our infield up against anybody. Today, we just didn't make the plays."