Wrapping things up: Ishpeming ends Little League baseball Majors tournament final round early with mercy-rule win over Portage Lake
“We’re going down strong and we’re going to play it hard downstate.” — Jenna Maki, right fielder, Ishpeming Little League Majors team
NEGAUNEE — The only on-field activity the Ishpeming Little League baseball all-stars wanted to have today was practice.
They made sure of that on Thursday evening, pounding out plenty of runs to top Portage Lake 16-4 in the District 11 Majors tournament championship round at Bernie Rivers Memorial Field and avoiding a decisive winner-take-all game tonight.
Ishpeming stayed perfect throughout the winner’s bracket in the week-long tourney, ensuring a Game 1 win in the finals would clinch the championship.
With the win, Ishpeming advances to the state tournament in Mount Pleasant that begins on Thursday.
In the title game, 10 of the 12 Ishpeming players recorded at least one hit to the delight of manager Greg Maki, who was in search of his team’s all-around offense after Tuesday’s much closer 5-3 semifinal victory over Negaunee.
“The bats finally came alive,” he said. “Everybody batted (today) for the first time in this tournament. Everybody hit the ball well, everybody off the bench played well, it was just a total team effort.”
On Thursday, Ishpeming found itself ahead 13-0 after three innings, with a chance to initiate the 10-run mercy-rule victory after four. Portage Lake managed to grind out four runs in the bottom of the fourth, however, to keep its title hopes and season alive.
“I thought we were going to have them after three innings,” Maki said, only needing two more runs at the time to go up 15-0 and end the game there. “Not to brag or anything, but we had to let them have their couple of runs.
“All the respect to Portage Lake. They played a hell of a ball game.”
The Ishpeming bats were led by Jaxson Alderton, who had four RBIs while going 3 for 4, including a second-inning double that brought in two runs.
Caden Luoma also plated three RBIs on three hits. Jaedon Pole and Jenna Maki added two RBIs each, while Tanner Annala, Carter Krook and Ethan Corp chipped in with one apiece.
On the mound, Tristen Miller and Corp combined to hold PL to five hits. Miller went 1 1/3 innings, allowing one hit while striking out one and walking one, as Corp finished things off with six strikeouts and a walk, allowing four hits, all of which came during Portage Lake’s fourth-inning rally.
“We did just what we had planned,” Maki said. “I threw Tristen for 20 (pitches) so that if this thing went upside down on us, we would have him for the whole game (today). Everything worked out just the way we planned.”
Ishpeming took an 8-0 lead after one inning, quickly ending the day for PL starter Eli Heathman, who only lasted two-thirds of an inning.
Brogan Turner came on in relief, going the rest of the way. He struck out six and walked two while allowing the last eight Ishpeming runs.
Ishpeming plated five more runs in the second, then was held scoreless until the fifth.
The Portage Lake rally started on a line drive to left field from Jack Sayen and another base knock from Heathman after that. Sayen scored on a ground out from Matthew Guilbault before Heathman was hit home by Ethan Hainault.
Hainault scored on a throw to second base before Ian Hong hit Kade Jenkins home for the fourth run.
Ishpeming got three runs back in the top of the fifth to put the mercy rule back into affect, and Corp as well as the Ishpeming defense put together a 1-2-3 inning to seal the district title.
Guilbault, Hainault and Hong each knocked in a run for PL, which had five hits to Ishpeming’s 19. Portage Lake committed two errors to Ishpeming’s one.
Jenna Maki, who started in right field, said she still can’t believe the run she and her teammates are making.
“In the beginning, we got our bats going and that’s the main reason we got the mercy (rule) in the fifth inning,” she said. “It’s really unbelievable that we were able to go this far. Small town, you know, and we pulled it together.
“We did a great job and we worked hard for it every day at practice.”
As Ishpeming prepares for the state tournament, she knows they won’t go down lightly.
“We’re going down strong and we’re going to play it hard downstate,” she said.
Email Ryan Spitza at firstname.lastname@example.org.