ESCANABA - The Escanaba Junior girls (age 13-14) Little League team are district champions once again, getting off to a blazing start one year after playing in the Little League World Series.
They defeated Kingsford 6-0 Sunday afternoon to claim their second consecutive title, and earned the right to advance to sectional play.
Kingsford began the day with a 13-4 victory over Norway to move on to the title game, which started off at a snail's pace on both sides. However, Escanaba slowly chipped away and picked up momentum, entering the seventh inning with a 3-0 advantage.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
The Escanaba girls Junior Little League team and coaches pose with their banner and trophy after defeating Kingsford 6-0 to win the district tournament, Sunday at Lemerand Field in Escanaba.
J.J. LaViolette got things going with a lead-off single, then stole second base. Kayla VanPortfliet ripped a single of her own, and Katie Ross came in to knock a run home with a base hit.
Taylor Segorski also came up with an RBI single, and one more run scored after a fielding error to give Esky the 6-0 lead, and some clutch pitching in the bottom half of the seventh from Ross locked up the victory.
"We started off a little slow, but in the end I thought we really started to play well," said Escanaba coach Jamie Segorski. "We got hits where we needed them."
Ross pitched the complete game, facing 21 batters and allowing just one hit, and that batter ended up being thrown out trying to steal second. Ross put the finishing touches on an already incredible outing by striking out the final two batters she faced.
"She pitched a fantastic game," Segorski said. "She just gets better as the game goes on. Plus, our defense is solid, and we definitely played well on that side of the ball. Taylor Gauthier made two fantastic plays at second base for us."
Kingsford coach Steve Clement said that the biggest difference between the title game and their game against Norway was that they couldn't get their offense rolling.
"We played well in game one, and the score showed it," he said. "Against Escanaba, the difference was the hitting. Our pitching was good, and our defense, but we couldn't get the bats going.
"Esky's a good team, give them credit. But we are almost where we need to be."
Molly Wahoviak took the loss for Kingsford, pitching the first three innings and giving up two runs on three hits.
Segorski added that his team will put their emphasis on hitting during practice this week in preparation for sectional play. The best of three series against L'Anse-Baraga begins with a doubleheader Friday at 5 p.m.. A third game, if neccessary, will be played at Lemerand Field Saturday at 3 p.m.
"We're going to see better and better teams as we go on," he said. "I think as we play more, our bats will come around. We have a team of good hitters."