MARQUETTE - If Bill Finkbeiner felt a little shell-shocked Wednesday night, he had every reason to be.
Manager of the Marquette Junior All-Stars baseball team, he watched his club fall to visiting Portage Lake, 17-4 in five innings, at home at Haley Memorial Field in the District 11 title game.
"Our pitching was soft. We couldn't locate the strike zone," Finkbeiner said. "When we did, (Portage Lake) was all over it.
Marquette Junior All-Star Alec Gadzinski jumps up to catch a fly ball during a game against Portage Lake on Wednesday at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"We just got beat by a better team, bottom line."
After losing the first game of the best 2-of-3 series, Portage Lake rallied to advance to sectional play beginning Friday, July 19, in Norway vs. the District 10 champion.
"We played well and the kids are just hitting the ball," Portage Lake manager Jim Cortright said. "I told the kids we could play with Marquette. We put the (11-1) first game (loss) out of our minds."
Alan Jurmu tossed a 71-pitch four-hitter for the winners. He struck out five and walked just one.
"He's so intense," Cortright said of his hurler. "He's all business and he kept Marquette off balance with his off-speed curve."
Lee Markham rapped out three hits and drove in four runs to lead Portage Lake at the plate. Jurmu (2) and teammates Pat Cortright (2) and Carter Puuri (2) combined for six RBIs with two hits apiece.
"They were real disciplined at the plate," Finkbeiner said of the winners. "They made us pitch and use up some arms.
"And their pitcher (Jurmu) had a good curve."
Behind RBI singles by Markham, Hans Stimac and a two-run hit by Markham in the second, Portage Lake took a 6-0 lead over Marquette and losing pitcher Hunter Doucette.
The host club came back with two runs in the bottom of the second, however, on a two-run single by Jaden Mattson that gave his team some life.
"You could see in their dugout that they were on fire," manager Cortright said of Marquette.
But Portage Lake responded with eight runs in the top of the third to put the game away. Jurmu slapped a two-run single to pace the surge.
"To get eight right back took the life out of Marquette," Jim Cortright said.
Marquette's Finkbeiner agreed.
"That was the turning point," he said. "When we put two runs on the board, that was huge. The kids got a big lift.
"(Portage Lake's surge) took the wind out of our sails. But I was happy to see the kids didn't quit at the end. It would have been real easy to walk away and get the game over.
"But they scratched away at it."
He added it was disappointing to take a 1-0 series lead and not win a series-winning second game.
"That's the difficult part," Finkbeiner said. "I knew pitching was going to be our difficulty this year. When you throw a lot of first-year kids, nerves are a factor."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.