Keweenaw kids end tournament run

IRONWOOD – Penokee Range became the champions of the Michigan District 11 Little League in ages 9-10 softball with a 14-4 title game victory over Keweenaw at the John Krznarich Field on Tuesday.

The team is made up of players from Hurley, Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield.

“These girls have jelled very well together,” Penokee manager Ryan Niemi said. “They’re 9 and 10-year old girls who are aggressive and enthusiastic. Our strongest point is still pitching, but the defense gets outs on the balls they hit. And hitting is contagious. The girls are hitting a lot in the cage and the coaches really work with them. And we’ve had an excellent turnout of fans so far.”

The game ended after five innings just as Sunday’s had done. But don’t let the score fool you. After being no-hit on by Madison Huotari on Sunday, Keweenaw came out strong on Tuesday and took a 3-2 lead after one inning.

“This was our fourth game in four days and our one pitcher (Elli Djerf) had twice as many strikeouts as walks in each game,” manager Judy Chizek said. “We just decided we weren’t going to quit. It was mostly the girls deciding. The coaches added some additional things.

“We played our best. They played their best and it took their best to beat us. Penokee is an excellent team. We wish them the best the rest of the tournament.”

Huotari started the first inning by hitting a frozen rope double to left-center and MacKenzie Backman was safe on a throwing error. With two outs, Darien Bender slammed a ball over the head of the left fielder on a 2-RBI double.

Victoria Harju started the second inning with a seeing-eye single to right-center, Brooke Ofstad walked and Huotari dropped in a soft liner between the infield and outfield that plated both runners.

Penokee led 4-3 after two innings.

“We started out sluggish,” Niemi said. “We weren’t overconfident, but I think we were a little nervous. We settled down, calmed down and played the game.”

After scoring three more times in the fourth inning, Penokee put the game out of reach with six more runs in the fifth.

Penokee rapped out 15 hits for the second game in a row and Bender led the offensive assault with a 4-4 performance. Huotari was 3-4 and Backman and Harju both had two hits.

Huotari picked up the win pitching five innings and gave up four runs (two earned) on only one hit. She walked three and notched seven strikeouts.