ESCANABA - Softball programs in Delta County are much better established and are traditionally strong contenders for Little League postseason honors.
The Escanaba Junior League girls maintained that superiority Sunday at Lemerand Field by coasting to the District 10 championship and a berth in the state tournament July 21 at Pinery Park.
Escanaba whipped Kingsford 11-1 in six innings, ending just before a downpour struck. Saturday Esky drubbed Iron Mountain North 18-0, after waxing Kingsford 13-1 in Friday's opener.
Dennis Grall | Daily Press
Janay Walters of Escanaba leaps back into second base to avoid a double play after Escanaba second baseman J.J. Laviolette caught a looper and ran to the bag for the double-play attempt. Shortstop Rebecca Piron and umpire Mike Vandecayve watch in the Junior League district championship game Sunday in Escanaba.
"They have a big learning curve," Escanaba manager Jamie Segorski said of teams from other regions of the Upper Peninsula who only recently began fielding Little League softball teams. Escanaba and Gladstone began Little League about 25 years ago and their programs have made appearances in the World Series five times.
Segorski, who is the jayvee softball coach at Escanaba High School, noted a strength of the program is having several coaches who have been with the Little League system over the years and have helped build a strong foundation.
That was obvious in this tournament as Escanaba displayed strong pitching and aggressive baserunning, key elements that neophyte programs like the Dickinson County opponents are still trying to improve.
Sam Connor, Callie Heller and Katie Ross split pitching chores Saturday and Sunday, allowing one hit in each game. Their speed and location were several notches above the opponents.
"Our pitching and our defense was fantastic, I thought," said Segorski. "It is hard to gauge the hitting with the pitching we were going against. The jury is out (on hitting)."
Heller had three hits in Sunday's finale while Connor had two hits. Emily LaFave's two-run double in the sixth ended the game before the rain arrived.
Escanaba, which stranded four runners in scoring position in opening two innings, broke the title game open by scoring six runs in the third inning as the Kingsford defense collapsed.
An Esky runner was safe at second when a short toss on a force out was dropped, then a base hit fell between two defenders in shallow left, Michelle LaFave scored on a wild pitch and J.J. Laviolette scooted home when the catcher's throw back to the plate bounced into the infield.
Then Kingsford' shortstop and second baseman collided on a pop fly, with Mariah Clement dropping the ball while sustaining a knee injury and another run scored on a passed ball.