GLADSTONE - A trio of South Portage pitchers proved very effective Friday as they combined on a no-hitter in an 18-1 softball rout of the Negaunee Major Girls' Little League All-Stars (age 11-12) in four innings on the opening day of the state tournament.
They also struck out nine of the 14 hitters they faced, with starter Maddie Bell whiffing four of the six she faced.
"We're pretty deep with pitching," said South Portage manager Tim Bell. "When the girls are throwing strikes and hitting the way they're capable, we're usually pretty successful."
South Portage, the defending state champion, returns to Howes Family Field to face Taylor Northwest today at noon and Escanaba Sunday at noon.
Negaunee meets Esky today at noon and Taylor Northwest Sunday at 10 a.m. on Cannon Field.
South Portage, eliminated by eventual World Series champion Sterling, Ill. in the Central Regional a year ago, wasted little time gaining the upper hand Friday.
The winners scored 10 times on nine hits in the first inning before adding eight runs in the fourth.
"It always helps to put a few runs on the board in the first inning," said Bell. "The girls are committed to being confident. They've been through tournament pressure before. They've been in a lot of tough games, plus we had a pretty tough district this year."
Hannah Voskuhl scored for Negaunee on a fielder's choice in the fourth.
"The girls didn't give up," said Negaunee manager Tom Beckman. "They (South Portage) are a tough team. They have three tough pitchers and we weren't hitting the ball today. For many of our girls this is the first experience with something like this. One loss doesn't eliminate us. We just need to hit the ball, get runners on base and be aggressive."
Jessica Poole, the first of three Negaunee pitchers, absorbed the loss.
South Portage finished with 15 hits, led by Madyson Cole and Pijaszek with three each. Maddie Bell and Kayla Blett had two each.
In other games:
ST. CLAIR 20,
JACKSON WEST 0
Maddie Mead and Olivia Young combined for a no-hitter and 11 strikeouts for St. Clair, which scored 14 times in the first inning.
Jackie Jensen led St. Clair with three hits in a four-inning game.
Karli Minor, Emma Distelrath, Heidi Likins and Hope Meyers had two hits apiece.
Danielle Nowak and Grace Maves combined on a two-hitter as Tecumseh secured its victory in five frames.
Kamryn Powell had two hits and drove in two runs. Nowak also had two hits.
Kimberly Maddox, who pitched the first inning, took the loss. She struck out one and allowed five runs on two hits. Mercedes Cole fanned four and gave up six runs on seven hits through four innings of relief.
W. GRAND RAPIDS 19, ESSEXVILLE HAMPTON 3
Hannah VanManen collected three hits for Western Grand Rapids, which scored eight runs each in the first and third frames.
Morgan Hipp, Anna Smith, Kaleigh Whitcomb and Nicole Szymczak added two hits apiece in a game which lasted four innings.
Essexville committed four errors in the third.