Escanaba set for Major state tourney
ESCANABA — Qualifying for the Little League Major (11-12) state baseball tournament is just icing on the cake for Escanaba manager Paul LaChance.
After all, Escanaba won six games out of the loser’s bracket to capture the District 10 championship and advance to St. Clair for the state tourney.
“They definitely are excited,” LaChance said about his team. “Winning the district was my championship for these guys. Nobody thought we were going to win. Of the No. 1 pitchers on all the teams, three teams had better No. 1s. But we had pitching depth.”
Escanaba will head downstate today for the opening ceremonies in St. Clair, which is located on the east side between Port Huron and Detroit.
Esky opens the 16-team tournament Friday at 9:30 a.m. against Taylor North Central. It also will play pool games Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Portage Lake from the Houghton-Hancock area and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. against Ash Carleton from Southwestern Michigan.
LaChance said a highlight of the trip will be Friday night when the team will attend the Detroit Tigers-Boston Red Sox game at Comerica Park. Escanaba will be the “Team of the Day” and will have a photo taken on the field.
Also, LaChance said the Portage Lake game will have extra meaning.
“We look at it as the U.P. championship game,” LaChance said.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to Monday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are scheduled for Tuesday and the championship game on Wednesday.
“If you can go 2-1 in your pool, you are almost guaranteed to go on,” LaChance said. “We will try hard to win our first two games and save our pitching.”
Escanaba used eight pitchers in the district tourney and hopes the depth is beneficial at the state tourney. Leading the pitching staff are Ben Johnson, Bon LaChance, Gavin Sommers and Bryson Lancour, who has enjoyed more of specialized role in relief.
“If we get in a jam, he won’t have walks,” LaChance said about Lancour. “He’s a bulldog.”
Other team members are Eli Gardner, Cannon Arnt, Trent Turchin, Graham Johnson, Johnny Weinert, Nolan Bink and Matty Kaven.
Assistant coaches are Cory Gardner and Scott Johnson.
LaChance also praised the community for its financial support to help defray the cost of the state tournament trip.
“The whole community has been so generous,” LaChance said. “The boys have been doing some fundraising and we are overwhelmed by the companies and people in town who are helping us.”
Escanaba last made a serious run toward the state title in 2006 with a loss in the semifinals.
Gladstone last won a state title for District 10 in 1996 and lost in the regional championship game at Indianapolis. Norway also recently finished state runner-up in 2011.
LaChance said his goal is to keep the team loose in an effort to advance out of pool play.
“That is my coaching style,” he said. “I have a blue-collar approach to go out and do your job and have fun.
” I don’t want kids to feel like they have failed after a game especially if they played well. Just go play good baseball and you will be in every game.”