SAULT STE. MARIE - The Escanaba Eskymos lengthened their baseball season Monday, earning a Division 2 district title with a 9-2 triumph over the Petoskey Northmen.
Esky (21-13), which gained its sixth district championship in eight years, goes to the regional tournament at West Branch where it's scheduled to open against Remus Chippewa Hills Saturday noon.
"We're happy for the seniors," said Esky manager Kirk Schwalbach. "We wanted them to have a good year. Today, we executed. We didn't have the mental mistakes we had during the regular season."
Mike McKee | Sault Evening News
Escanaba’s Ben Kleiman (8) steals second base while the Cheboygan shortstop fields a late throw during a district tournament game Monday in Sault Ste. Marie.
Esky opened the scoring in the first inning on Nick Vandermissen's triple, then added five runs in the third for a 6-0 advantage.
Bailey Lamb rapped a two-run single in the third. Tyler Skufca added a two-run double and Vandermissen's sacrifice fly gave the Eskymos their six-run cushion.
"We kept telling the kids to win the inning and the third inning gave us some breathing room," said Schwalbach.
Alex DeHaan's sacrifice fly made it 7-0 in the fourth before Petoskey scored a run in its half of the inning.
Petoskey then loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth off starting pitcher Ben Kleiman. Austin Young, who came on in relief, prevented further damage.
The Eskymos, taking advantage of two walks and an error, extended their lead to 9-1 in the sixth.
Petoskey (24-10) finished the scoring in the seventh.
Esky had 11 hits, including three by Young. Skufca and Cameron Beversluis had two each.
Kleiman struck out one, walked two and allowed one run on five hits through three innings. Young then fanned three, walked one and gave up a run on four hits through four frames.
"Austin's a gamer," said Schwalbach. "He goes after the hitters."
In the opener, Esky rallied from an early four-run deficit to eliminate Cheboygan 9-7.
Esky grabbed a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the first. DeHaan ripped a two-run single and Lamb added an RBI double before the Eskymos gained the upper hand on a pair of errors.
"Getting those runs kind of set the tone," said Schwalbach. "After the one bad inning, we played good baseball. We told the kids that inning is done. I also told them we're not worried about the other teams, I'm worried about us."
The Eskymos raised the count to 7-4 in the fourth on singles by Kleiman and DeHaan.
After Cheboygan pulled within 7-5 in the fifth, the Eskymos scored twice by taking advantage of two miscues in their half of the inning.
Cheboygan scored two runs on Stan Swiderek's single in the sixth. The Chiefs then put two baserunners on with two out in the seventh, but failed to score.
DeHaan had three hits and drove in three runs. Kleiman also had three hits.
Devin Olsen took the win in relief of DeHaan. He whiffed two, walked one and gave up three runs on seven hits through six innings.
"Devin pitched a solid game," said Schwalbach. "He really stepped up and got better all year. We really needed him to come through and he did.
"Alex has also pitched well for us all year. Alex didn't have his best stuff today, but he hit the ball well."