AKRON, Ohio - One game after the Escanaba Junior (age 13-14) girls hung on as their opponents nearly stormed their way back from a 10-run deficit, the Esky All-Stars found themselves on the opposite end of that situation.
Escanaba erased a 7-0 hole to triumph 10-8 over South Bend, Ind. and earn a berth in the Central Regional championship game today against Poland, Ohio at 2 p.m.
"We were down 7-0 in the fourth inning. We didn't leave ourselves a whole lot of wiggle room," said Esky manager Jamie Segorski. "The girls were playing real tight, it was just a big game, a semifinal game in the regional championships."
Callie Heller of Escanaba puts down a slap hit in the fifth inning against South Bend, Ind for an RBI single. Heller was 3-4 at the plate in Escanaba’s 10-8 come-from-behind victory.
The Indiana state champs were formidable indeed and chased starting Escanaba pitcher Sam Connor after two innings and five runs.
Down 7-0 after the top of the fourth, Segorski pulled his team aside.
"I called them into the dugout and I basically scared them into hitting," Segorski said. "(South Bend) had a pitcher that had our number. We only had three hits in the first three innings.
"It's an exciting game and the girls were playing real slow, without a lot of emotion or energy; So I chewed on them a little bit, and they got it going and the bats started to light up."
Escanaba scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth as they batted around the order. Becca Piron got the rally going with an RBI single, Michelle LaFave followed with a single, a third run scored on an error at third base, followed by an error at shortstop. Kayla Van Portfliet followed with a single and J.J. Laviolette ripped a double to left center for the sixth run.
"Any time you start out the game down seven runs and you think you're out of it and you find a way to pull yourself back into it, it's something special," said Segorski.
Escanaba took the lead in the fifth, tagging South Bend for three more runs to take a 9-7 lead. By the time the seventh inning rolled around, Esky led 10-7.
Callie Heller was 3-4 at the plate with a third inning double and two singles. LaFave was 3-4 with two singles and a triple.
Connor was relived at the start the third inning by Katie Ross, who pitched four innings. Connor was brought back out to pitch the seventh.
"Sam is a tough kid and a good pitcher. She was just in a little bit of a funk today, but the whole team was playing a little slow. Katie came in and sparked us a bit," said Segorski.
"The defense played well behind her and I was able to bring Sam back in for the seventh. She fired the ball well and did a great job."
The winner of today's title game will advance to the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Wash. next weekend.