MONTAGUE, Mich. - Hot pitching provided an opportunity for Richmond to rally at any time in Monday's Junior (age 13-14) Little League state championship game, but the strong bats of Delta County were able to muster five hits; and thanks to the arms of Hunter Garling and Nick Aird, that was enough.
The Delta County All-Stars are the Junior League state champions after clipping Richmond 3-1 in a game that was as tight as they come. The title comes one week after the Escanaba Junior girls captured a state title at Pinery Park in Wyoming, Mich.
"It was a good game, a tight game," said manager Tony Punzel. "They (Richmond) had a good pitcher out there."
Photo courtesy of Lisa Beem
The Delta County Junior League All Stars are state champions after defeating Richmond 3-1 Monday. The team includes: back row, from left; Coach Kevin Beem, Nick Aird, Sean Bissell, Bryant Beem, Brandon Punzel, Hunter Garling and Manager Tony Punzel; front row, from left: Coach Rick Aird, Jake Peterson, Justin Popelka, Logan Lamb, Jack Valentine, and Hunter Larmarch.
So did Delta County, which is believed to be the first District 10 junior boys' team to earn a state title in 15 years.
Hunter Garling pitched into the sixth and didn't allow a run as Richmond's lone tally came in the bottom of the seventh. Nick Aird came on in relief to close out the game.
"Nick did an awesome job in relief," said Punzel. "He came through like so many times before."
At the plate, hits were scarce for the normally blazing hot bats of Delta County. Logan Lamb collected two hits and Brandon Punzel, Aird and Bryant Beem each had one.
Delta County broke a scoreless tie heading into the fourth inning before Lamb ripped a double, advanced on a groundout and scored on a passed ball. Delta County's other two runs came in the sixth inning. Garling led off with a walk, stole second and reached third on an error. Lamb secured an RBI single and after stealing second, Aird brought him home with an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Richmond did make a rally attempt in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with one out. Aird however stood tall, he got the next Richmond batter to ground out, scoring one run, before popping out the last batter and securing the victory.
Delta County now heads to Fort Wayne, Ind., for the regional tournament. They will report Saturday for the opening ceremonies in the 11-team round robin style tourney. The first game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Punzel said he thought his team was capable of excellence but the field was unknown to him coming in.
"We were trying to gauge the competition coming in. We didn't really know where we at, but we knew the kids were capable of being state champions," he said. "We hit the ball well, we had solid pitching and good defense around the pitchers. It was good to see them come through again.
"This is also the same team that won the 2009 state title in the Cal Ripkin League and in 2010 they were Cal Ripkin runners up, so they have some good history. They've been there."