District domination: PL cleans up

IRONWOOD – A remarkable comeback finished off a remarkable fight back through five straight elimination games to a Major (age 11-12) District 11 championship for the Portage Lake Little League All-Stars Friday.

PL trailed 7-0 after three innings but rallied for a 9-7 win over Ishpeming, completing a 4-for-4 sweep for PLLL. The PLLL Minors finished off their tournament in Marquette Friday, the Juniors finished off Marquette earlier in the week and the Seniors advanced automatically after the other teams withdrew from a tournament slated to start this weekend.

“The kids very easily could have folded and said ‘We’re done,’ but this team has a lot of heart, they battled every night and they took it one game at a time,” PL manager John Bostwick said.

The second championship game Friday was PL’s seventh game in seven days.

Given the pitching limitations, an innings-eating outing from Ashton Janke was essential, and he delivered, going 5 1/3 innings to earn the pitching victory. When he hit his pitch count limit, Evan Larson came on for the last two outs and the save.

It wasn’t easy, as Ishpeming loaded the bases in the top of the sixth after a close play at first, only for PL to get out of the jam and collect its district title.

PL’s six-run fourth inning got them back into the game, and they took the lead in the fifth. P.J. Donnelly laid down a bunt, which was thrown away, the first of a series of errors that scored a run and left Donnelly on third. Donnelly scored on a groundout to make it a 9-7 game.

“We just were patient and we got some good swings on the ball,” Bostwick said.

PL advances to the state tournament, conveniently located within its home district in Ishpeming starting Friday. They will play a minimum of three pool games against the champions of District 15 (southwest Lower Michigan), 1 (Mid-Michigan) and 7 (Port Huron area).