Final U.P. team eliminated from Little League Majors state baseball tournament in Ishpeming

MARQUETTE – Big innings win baseball games.

All four quarterfinal winners proved that by scoring a majority of their runs in a single inning Monday at the Little League Major Division state baseball tournament in Ishpeming.

But Grosse Pointe Woods Shores also backed it up with a sterling team pitching effort.

The all-star squad made up of two neighboring Detroit suburbs used four pitchers to no-hit the Upper Peninsula’s last remaining team, Sault Ste. Marie, for a 6-0 victory.

With the game at the Ishpeming Ballfield Complex played with a stiff breeze blowing in from right field, the Sault had just four baserunners on a walk, two hit batsmen and an error.

Monday was the first day of elimination games after all 16 entries previously played three days of pool play, with half – two teams from each pool – advancing to the quarterfinals.

Iron Mountain and Houghton County’s Portage Lake posted 1-2 records that weren’t good enough to advance, though another pair of 1-2 teams did make it through after winning tiebreakers in their pools.

Both those one-win teams were also eliminated on Monday, however.

Left standing are Grosse Pointe Woods Shores, a perfect 4-0, which will play nearby Birmingham (3-1) at 12:30 p.m. today. Birmingham raced past previously undefeated Ira Township, a far northeastern suburb of Detroit, 9-3.

In the second semifinal set for 3 p.m., West Portage (4-0) of the Kalamazoo area will play Bay City Northwest (3-1). West Portage held off Traverse City East, 13-11, while BC Northwest mercied Midland Northeast, 12-1 in five innings.

Today’s winners square off in the state championship game at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Grosse Pointe Woods Shores 6,

Sault Ste. Marie 0

The game started as an all-out pitchers’ duel, with the teams combining for one hit and no baserunners getting past second base through the first three innings.

While GP rotated in pitchers, none getting more than 2 1/3 innings nor more than 22 pitches thrown, the Sault stuck with starter Sam Hopper for four innings.

“We went with our game plan going into the tournament that we just wanted to get to this day,” Sault co-coach Shane Thompson Sr. said. “We put in our best defense and our best pitcher and hoped to steal a game.

“We just planned to keep it close.”

Including an unassisted double play that nearly became an unassisted triple play turned by Sault shortstop Shane Thompson Jr. in the second, the strategy worked for half the game.

But Grosse Pointe seemed to find a line on Hopper the second time through the order in the fourth.

Giant No. 3 batter Chad Lorkowski, a solidly built player who stands about 6-foot-4, opened with an infield hit.

Following a strikeout, GP put four straight men on with a walk, hit batter and singles by pinch hitters Joey Rheaume and Jackson Vyletel.

Following a flyout to center field, consecutive singles by Ryan Shanley, Tyler Hill and Lorkowski completed the five-run inning. Every hit after the first one by Lorkowski was either a bounder through the infield or a sharp line drive, negating much of the effect of the wind blowing in.

John Lizza rounded out the scoring in the fifth with a solo homer that landed on the foul line just beyond the fence in left field.

“Almost anyone on our team can hit a home run, but we’re best when we’re just trying to get a hit,” Hill said.

GP manager Tom Mazzola wasn’t surprised that pitching ruled much of the game.

“Our hitting, it’s been a struggle,” he said. “I feel real good that we have all of our pitching (still available). Our kids seem to hit better when we have our No. 1 and 2 pitchers on the mound.”

Those pitchers are Antonio Morceri, who completed his stint on the rubber just before his team’s big rally, and Lorkowski, who struck out the final two batters to end the game.

“In four games, we’ve given up five runs,” Mazzola said. “And we’ve only had three or four walks. What else can you ask for?”

Birmingham 9,

Ira Township 3

Birmingham scored five runs in the third to break a 3-3 tie as the winners got a two-run homer from Oliver MacDonald, a solo shot by Tommy MacLean and 13 hits in total.

Ira Township scored all its runs in the top of the first with a three-run homer by Nick Basirico as the game was played on a field with the wind blowing out down the right field line.

West Portage 13,

Traverse City East 11

Despite a grand slam and two-run homers by Traverse City’s Luke Klug, West Portage made its seven-run first inning stand up to advance on a wind-aided field.

Klug and TC teammate Danny Passinault hit back-to-back homers in the third to cut its deficit to 7-6.

West Portage put up two runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth to reopen a 13-6 advantage, but Klug’s grand slam cut it to 13-11 in the sixth.

West Portage closer Michael Verduzco got the last three outs by striking out four batters, including the last three he faced, after one of those strikeout victims reached base on a dropped third strike.

Bay City Northwest 12,

Midland Northeast 1

Despite the wind blowing in, four homers were hit out of the park, all left of center field. The first was by Midland’s Jeff Landis, a line drive that didn’t rise more than 20 feet in the air to left-center in the opening inning.

But Bay City countered with extra base hits to left by Carson Cooley and Tyler David in the fourth and Adam Randall in the fifth.

Bay City scored seven times in the fourth after getting just one baserunner in the first three innings.

David scattered five hits and a walk while striking out two in going the distance on the mound.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.