Backyard state finals

NEGAUNEE – He doesn’t know what to expect in this weekend’s Little League softball 10- and 11-year-old state tournament scheduled for LaCombe Field in Negaunee.

But that’s OK with North Central Upper Peninsula coach Patrick Thomson.

“We won’t know much until the teams come here,” he said in previewing the five-team tourney that runs from Friday through Sunday. “It is what it is.

“We’re preparing for if every team is very good. Even if we knew (beforehand) how good they are, our approach wouldn’t be any different. It wouldn’t change our game plan much.”

North Central U.P. – a team composed of girls from the Negaunee and Ishpeming Little League associations – will open the tournament at 2 p.m. Friday against Bay County, then play again that evening at 8 o’clock vs. Escanaba, the only other U.P. team in the tourney.

Round-robin action continues all day Saturday, with North Central playing Georgetown from the Grand Rapids area at 12:30 p.m., and conclude on Sunday when NC takes on Tecumseh from near the Ohio border at 10 a.m.

Following one more round-robin game featuring Escanaba and Georgetown at noon, the top two teams will advance to the state championship game set for 3 p.m.

Thomson said every team’s prospects will likely come down to pitching.

“If you have a lights-out pitcher, you can ride her coattails,” he said.

That might bode well for North Central U.P.

Josie Thomson – the coach’s daughter – and Larissa Anderson form a potent 1-2 combination on the pitching rubber, Patrick Thomson said.

“We feel real confident they’ll help carry us,” he said. “We’ve been working a lot on Josie’s control. She’s a lefty with a drop ball and a screwball. She has a release that lends itself to those pitches.

“Larissa is the classic workhorse,” the coach added. “She’ll come right at you and wear you down.”

On offense, North Central features Katlyn Lammi, Natalie Prophet and Ellie Miller in the middle of the lineup.

“Katlyn is our No. 1 hitter,” Thomson said. “She can pound the ball and is hitting cleanup.

“Natalie bats in our No. 5 position and she has excellent hand-eye coordination.

“And Ellie has really come around what it comes to making contact with the ball while batting at No. 6,” he added.

The coach also said he’s “comfortable” with his team’s defense.

“Not a lot of balls are hit into the outfield,” he said, “but we’re very seasoned in the infield.”

North Central U.P. has played just two games – both big wins at home over Baraga in the district tournament last week – though Thomson said he’s familiar with his players after coaching some of them in travel softball.

Though the coach said “there are a lot of question marks” concerning the tourney and “I really don’t know what we’re up against,” he said his team does have one advantage – playing at home.

“Our fan base is right in our backyard,” he said. “That hometown support will (no doubt) push us.”

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.