ISHPEMING - Cool, drizzly conditions didn't lend themselves to the crispest of play by teams of 13- and 14-year-olds at the Ishpeming Playgrounds ball diamond on Tuesday evening.
Except for Ishpeming pitcher Kevin Roberts, who saved his own victory with a 10-strikeout performance as the home team stayed alive in the Little League Juniors District 11 tournament with a 4-2 victory over Marquette.
Ishpeming advances to today's championship round against undefeated Portage Lake. Ishpeming needs to win at 5 p.m., then again in the "if necessary" game at 7 p.m. to capture the title and advance to sectional play.
Marquette base runner Dylan Sibilsky is tagged out by Ishpeming third baseman Dylan Villeneuve on an attempted steal in the second inning of a Little League Juniors District 11 tournament game played at the Ishpeming Playgrounds on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
On Tuesday, Roberts started and went three innings, allowing just one hit and a run on his own error.
After Nathan Beckman relieved him for the fourth and fifth innings, Ishpeming manager Jeff Adriano reinserted his starter for the final two innings. Roberts gave up one more run, that on another error, and no more hits to preserve his own "W."
"We committed a few errors, but the key was we didn't compound them by making more," Adriano said. "And Kevin did such a good job on the mound that we were able to overcome those mistakes."
Ishpeming finished with four errors but Marquette was only able to scratch out two singles. On the other side, Marquette committed three errors as Ishpeming cracked six singles.
"When we played them Saturday (in Marquette's 12-4 win), we tracked our pitches and noticed that they jumped on every first pitch," Adriano said about Marquette's aggression. "So today, I wanted to vary our first pitches to them, not always throw a fastball at the beginning of every at-bat."
Roberts had his own strategy.
"We just had to keep working and not think about it if we messed up, just forget about it and concentrate on the next play," he said. "And we were able to figure out which of their guys have a lot of trouble with the curveball."
It apparently wasn't losing hurler Carter Peterson, who despite batting eighth in the order, collected both of Marquette's hits. But on his third plate appearance of the day, he popped out to Ishpeming second baseman Gavin Sundberg to end the game.
Marquette opened the scoring in the top of the first as leadoff batter Luke McCarthy reached on an error, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Roberts' throwing error on an attempted pickoff.
That lead held up until the bottom of the third when contrasting Ishpeming players scored to put their team up 2-1.
Sundberg, who may be the smallest player in this tournament, walked, stole two bases and scored on a bounceout by Wyatt Bodette.
"We try to be aggressive on the basepaths," Adriano said as his team finished with six steals in all on Tuesday.
The other third-inning run was scored by Jacob Adriano, the manager's son, who has to be among the tallest. He singled, moved to second on Roberts' single, stole third and scored on an error on a pickoff attempt.
Adriano heaped praise on pinch hitter Devin Tasson for allowing him to extend his aggressiveness an inning later.
"Devin doesn't get a lot of opportunities to play, but he laid down a beautiful bunt," Adriano said of a suicide squeeze that put Tasson on second base due to a throwing error on the play.
Roberts' second hit and a wild pitch helped him score his team's final run in the fifth.
Marquette countered with its second run in the sixth scored by Nick Leafers off two errors, a stolen base and wild pitch. But he was his team's only baserunner in the final two innings of Roberts' own save.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.