Portage Lake Juniors blast out to district title

ISHPEMING – Trailing Portage Lake just 4-2 after four innings Wednesday evening, the Ishpeming Junior (13-14) Little League baseball team was hanging tough against the defending District 11 champions.

Then the roof collapsed.

Portage Lake, taking advantage of several Ishpeming walks and wild pitches, scored eight runs in the fifth inning en route to a 12-3 victory.

The winners – several of whom won their fifth district championship in as many years – will now play Kingsford in Norway on Saturday in sectional play.

“I knew having seen Portage Lake play the last few years they’re well coached and a good ballclub,” Ishpeming manager Jeff Adriano said. “You have to play good, error-free baseball to beat them. We didn’t.

“We had some momentum (entering the fifth frame), then everything fell apart.”

Portage Lake got RBI singles from Carson Turner, Vaughn Kapler and Clayton Sayen – his second of three in the game – to make it 7-3 with two outs.

But four Ishpeming wild pitches and a walk – all with the bases loaded – pushed across five more runs to give the winners a comfortable lead.

“Our kids hit well, then one of their pitchers (Wyatt Bodette) got in trouble,” Portage Lake manager Jim Cortright said. “He struggled.”

Jeff Adriano pulled his son, Jacob, after an effective 4 2/3 innings due to a high pitch count.

“That’s the only reason why I did that,” the manager said, noting his son had thrown 68 pitches to that point. “If I hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been available to pitch this weekend (in the sectionals).”

Ishpeming avoided a 10-run mercy rule final when Jacob Adriano got an infield hit with the bases loaded in the fifth, but could get no closer.

Portage Lake got an RBI double to deep left-center from winning pitcher Pat Cortright in the first, a run-scoring groundout from Aaron Barnes in the second and two runs in the fourth on single by Sayen.

Ishpeming scored twice in the fourth on a balk and an error.

Pat Cortright got the mound win. He allowed two runs and a hit in four innings of work while walking two and striking out three.

“He’s our No. 1 (pitcher) and very good at hitting the corners,” Jim Cortright said of his son. “He’s one of our hardest throwers, but he has a great change-up and an OK curve.

“He threw only 48 pitches and threw strikes.”

Jacob Adriano posted two singles for Ishpeming.