GLADSTONE - Escanaba had the beginnings of an impressive rally going in the sixth inning of Friday's Little League Major Girls (11-12) State Finals against the Taylor East-West All-Stars. However, it wasn't enough.
Though the Esky All-Stars can take solace in the fact that they were the only losing team of the day to survive a full six innings, they still felt the sting of a 5-2 loss.
This was a well-polished Taylor team, armed with solid hitting and defense, as well as a pitcher in Kara Roberts that stifled the Escanaba bats for much of the game.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Escanaba’s Emily Bruntjuns can’t come down with the ball after the throw to second base, enabling Taylor’s Shelby Armstrong to reach second base on the error on a hit by Holly Kimes as Megan Dagenais looks on Friday at James Cannon Memorial Field during the Major Girls Little League state softball tournament.
Escanaba's Emily Bruntjuns led the game off with a single and eventually scored on a groundout from pitcher Hannah Edington. Bruntjuns single would be the lone Escanaba hit until the sixth inning, as Roberts coasted through the order. She struck out three and walked one, while allowing a total of five hits.
Taylor responded quickly to Esky's 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. With Roberts and Karyssa Lambert on base via singles, Hannah Hall collected two RBIs on a triple. As Hall rounded the bases, she made a dash for third as the throw came in. However, due to an error on the play, Hall was able to complete her trip around the bases, sliding into home to score.
"Hannah has been dying for that kind of opportunity," said Taylor manager Dave Roberts. "She runs like a freight train. I'll push that all day and if she gets thrown out, it just wasn't meant to be."
The inning was a sticking point for Escanaba manager Amy Bruntjens.
"That one inning they kind of jumped on us. We played pretty tight defense the rest of the way," she said. "Our only problem was not hitting. If we get bats going like normal, this is an absolutely different game."
Taylor capped their scoring in the third when Becca Swift scored Lambert on a single - that also loaded the bases with one out. Tori Morgan was able to push Morgan Zackiewicz across with a groundout to give Taylor a 5-1 lead.
Though at one point Kara Roberts retired 13 consecutive Escanaba batters, Malary Hiney put a stop to that in the fifth, drawing a walk.
Katie Wilson woke up the bats in the top of the sixth when she reached base on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt. Amazingly, the next two Esky batters, Bruntjuns and Claire Melnerney followed with bunts of their own - both reached base safely.
"We have a lot of speed on this team; half the team has really good speed so we knew laying down bunts, they'll often beat it out," said manager Bruntjens. "Unfortunately, we didn't have many opportunities to do that prior to the sixth inning."
With the bases loaded and none out, Edington ripped an RBI single, scoring Wilson. However, Roberts ensured the rally would stop there. Darby Beckon hit into a fielders choice as Bruntjuns was thrown out at home. Savannah Barron and Hiney each flied out to end the game.
Escanaba will still have an opportunity to advance to Monday as they have two games remaining. They play Negaunee today at noon and South Portage Sunday at noon.
Negaunee fell to South Portage, the defending state champion, 18-1 Friday.
"We know Neguanee from the Memorial Day Classic they were in with us," said Bruntjuns. "We're ready to go in Saturday and take charge."