ESCANABA - Not every Little League All-Star team gets an opportunity to play for a state title on its home field.
The Escanaba Senior girls (age 15-16), however, earned that right Sunday by holding off Keweenaw 5-3 and blanking Parchment 12-0 in five innings to finish pool play with a perfect 4-0 record.
Esky will try to turn its championship dream into reality this morning at 10 when it hosts Edwardsburg at Lemerand Park.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Escanaba’s Callie Heller pitches during the third inning of their Senior Little League state tournament game against Keweenaw, Sunday, in Escanaba.
Edwardsburg kept its hopes alive by rallying past Taylor 10-8 and Keweenaw 9-7 on Sunday.
Esky's Callie Heller, Alyssa Polequin and Sam Connor combined for a two-hitter and six strikeouts against Parchment.
Heller had three of Esky's eight hits, including in infield RBI single which made it 4-0 in the second. She also had an RBI single to centerfield in the fourth.
Connor added an RBI double to right in the first and a run-scoring single to left in the fourth.
"We had good hitting and pitching all the way around," said Esky manager Michelle Carne. "We were also fortunate enough to get all our pitchers in, and they're all available for tomorrow (today's title contest). It's huge for us to be playing at home with extra fans in the stands. This is a great experience for everyone, including myself."
Against Keweenaw, Esky held a seemingly-comfortable 5-0 lead after 6 1/2 innings.
The Copper Country squad, however, made things interesting by scoring three times in its half of the seventh.
"We came out a little flat," said Carne. "Our bats were there. We hit some shots, but they made some great plays. We have five girls who've been in this situation before and some who haven't been here before. The girls stayed calm through the whole thing, and our experience is what I think helped us."
Keweenaw scored its first two runs on singles to leftfield by Taylor Shepeard and Sarah Audette and its third run on Celia Peterson's double to left.
Jana Hendrickson also tried to score on Peterson's extra base hit, but was thrown out at the plate on a relay throw from shortstop Callie Heller.
Esky took a 1-0 lead on Becca Piron's single to right in the first. Jaymie Frappier's single to left made it 2-0. Frappier then scored the third run on a fielder's choice.
Heller's sacrifice bunt provided Esky with its fourth run in the second and Jessica Gill raised the count to 5-0 on a fielder's choice in the sixth.
Connor, Heller and Polequin shared Esky's mound duties.
Keweenaw's Sarah Audette, who pitched the entire contest, absorbed the loss. She struck out two, walked two and allowed nine hits.
"It was a good game and Sarah pitched a pretty good game," said Keweenaw manager Jeff Shepeard. "I'm happy with the girls. For this being our first trip to the state tournament, I think they did a great job."
Gill finished 3-for-3 and Frappier had two hits. Erin Gast had two of Keweenaw's seven hits.
Keweenaw then built a 7-0 advantage on Edwardsburg in Sunday's nightcap.
The downstate team located near the Indiana border then scored twice in the fifth, three times in the sixth and four times in the seventh.
Paige Freshour led Edwardsburg with two hits. Morgan Peters had a pair, including a three-run triple in the first, for Keweenaw.
Peters, who pitched 6 1/3 innings, took the loss. She fanned two, walked four, hit a batter and surrendered eight runs on six hits.
"Morgan dominated for four innings," said Shepeard. "But sometimes girls get a little frustrated when the calls don't go their way. I think we also may have gotten a little worn down in the end. We play about 15 games a year and don't have any high school players. We don't get enough field time, and this year we had a late start (due to a prolonged winter)."
On Saturday, Keweenaw opened with a 14-13 loss to Parchment on Saturday, then fell to Taylor 9-3.
Keweenaw led 13-7 after 6 1/2 frames in the opener. But seven walks and two wild pitches by a trio of its pitchers, opened the door for Parchment.
Taylor's Miranda Hebert, Chelsea Worga and Katie Wilson then combined on a two-hitter and Emily Boswell went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs in the next round.
Frappier fired a two-hitter, whiffed eight and walked one in Esky's conquest of Taylor. She also took the win against Edwardsburg, allowing two runs on six hits through three innings.
Polequin and Leisner collected three hits each and Heller and Piron had two apiece for Esky, which overcame an early 2-0 deficit against Edwardsburg.
Edwardsburg's Bailey Thomas had two hits, including a leadoff home run in the first. Lila Blough added an RBI double in the opening frame. Aubrey Richey also finished with two hits.