Little League Minor boys: Tri-County rolls into final four

ESCANABA – The Tri-County Minor boys (ages 9-10) put together another juggernaut performance Wednesday night, dominating Escanaba with a 14-4 mercy rule victory.

Taking a page out of their stellar outing on Tuesday, they returned to the field with top-notch pitching and consistent offensive production, putting up seven runs in just the first half inning as they worked their way through the entire lineup.

“It was another quality game,” said Tri-County coach Mike Rondeau. “The kids came out, swung the bats well and worked the counts again. Good effort on our kids’ part; they worked for this.”

Blake Krouth started the onslaught with a lead-off single, and Trevor Hanson knocked in the first run of the game with an RBI single. Then Lucas Kanerva immediately bounced back from a great game Tuesday by smashing a double to center field, and Jake Rondeau earned a walk to load the bases.

The next three batters walked, advancing the runner home each time to give Tri-County a 4-0 lead. That was when Hayden Santure belted a two-RBI single to pad their advantage.

Krouth hit a high fly ball that was caught, but the runner tagged up and made it home safely.

Escanaba fought back, but Tri-County had another ace on the mound in Krouth, who finished with six strikeouts and gave up four runs through four innings.

“We had a great night of pitching out on the mound,” Rondeau said. “Blake (Krouth) worked his number up and threw as many as he could throw, and was throwing strikes. I thought the pitchers on both teams held it together with the tight strike zone.”

Heading into the bottom of the fourth, Escanaba trailed 13-2 and needed two runs to stay alive. Adam Willette received a walk, then Jordan Schafer smacked a single to advance Willette to third. After a passed ball, Willette made his way home for the first run.

Krouth would walk two more batters in the inning. After throwing the deciding final ball, it sailed past the catcher, allowing another run to come in and the Escanaba bench to come back to life.

Tri-County would quickly regain their advantage, however. In the top of the fifth, Jack Rondeau got a base hit, then Mike Rondeau knocked him home to make it 14-4 and regain the 10-run lead.

Jayger Lamarch made a beautiful double-play by tagging the runner on his way to second then throwing the relay over in time, and Brett Schlenvogt struck out the next batter to end the side.

Dakota Maki came in to relieve Krouth, and made quick work of Esky. Two K’s and a ground out ended the game and sent Tri-County straight into the final four, beginning Wednesday at Barkle Field in Iron Mountain.

“We’ll let them enjoy this one and let it sink in, and we’ll probably hit practice again tomorrow night,” Rondeau said.

Escanaba may have been down after the loss, but they are not out. They will take Dickson Field tonight at 5 p.m. to face off against Gladstone, who beat Munising 18-5 earlier in the day, for the right to move on in tournament play.

“I thought maybe we were on the verge of doing something, but we just ran out of time,” said Escanaba coach Steve Howes. “We will come back and play hard, stay focused, be hungry, and get the bats going. We need to play smart baseball.”