GLADSTONE - Duane Englund ensured that this would not be another year of Tri-County disappointment. With a two-RBI double in the bottom of the fifth, Englund catapulted the winning runs home and erased a dubious streak.
The Tri-County Major boys are at long last headed to the District 10 tournament with a 5-2 victory over Escanaba Monday in the Area Tournament finale at Howes Family Field.
Tri-County plays at Kingsford Friday at 4 p.m. (CDT) against tonight's Kingsford-Iron Mountain North winner. At 6 p.m. Friday, Gladstone meets Norway.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Alec Santure of Tri-County is safe at second base after Escanaba shortstop Garron Salo can’t reel in the ball. Santure advanced to third on the error Monday at Howes Field in Gladstone.
"It's been a long time coming for Tri-County," said a nearly breathless manager Matt Rondeau, who couldn't quite pinpoint just how long it's been since the Rock-Trenary-Perkins based team has reached this level.
"By one count, it's been 22 years, but it's at least been a minimum of 10," he said.
Escanaba, on the other hand, can only wonder what might have been after taking a 2-1 lead in the fifth only to watch it disappear in the bottom of the inning.
"It was just one inning," said Esky manager Ron Young. "It was a tight game all the way. I actually planned on intentionally hitting (Englund) with first base open. Then I found out he had a 3-0 count and we pitched to him."
D.J. Bourdeau led off the fifth for Esky with a monster triple and Tanner Nelson earned the RBI while grounding out to give his team the lead. Dayne Farenbrook and Garron Salo later followed with a single and double respectively but Escanaba couldn't tack on the insurance run.
Things got away quickly in the bottom of the inning.
After Esky pitcher Nick Dufour got Aaron Scarcelli to ground out, Tri-County collected back-to-back singles from Alec Santure and Evan Hill. Santure ended up safe at third after the first of three Escanaba errors that inning. Santure eventually scored the tying run on a passed ball. Josh Kulik reached first on another error, setting the stage for Englund's double. Englund would put the icing on the cake, scoring on another error.
Escanaba went three-and-out in the sixth and banged-up Tri-County celebrated.
Rondeau pointed out his team's battle scars.
"One of our pitchers (Englund) blew his rotator cuff early in the season. He rehabbed it and had those two big RBIs today. Our pitcher today (Kole Salmi), well you can see what he's got too," Rondeau said, pointing to a cast on Salmi's wrist. "What a group this is."
"I tore a tendon," Salmi said, displaying his cast like a badge of pride.
Salmi struck out three and allowed eight hits while walking none.
Young, while managing a shorthanded team, still found positives.
"We were missing some kids to camp, but it was nice with nine kids today. They all got to play and try out some new positions. It's worked out well, this whole post-season," he said. "At tryouts, we had 12 kids and all of them made the team. They did well today."