Junior girls Little League: Esky starts hot, torches Kingsford 10-0 in opener

ESCANABA – A trio of pitchers combined on a one-hitter Friday night as the Escanaba Junior Girls’ (age 13-14) Little League All-Stars gained a 10-0 victory over Kingsford in a District 10 softball opener.

Kayla VanPortfliet struck out five of the six hitters she faced in the first two innings. Katie Ross added four strikeouts in the next two frames and J.J. LaViolette retired Kingsford in order in the fifth. They allowed just two walks.

“We’re deep in pitching,” said Esky manager Jamie Segorski. “We have five quality pitchers, and they all have something different to offer. When your pitching is deep, you have a chance to do well.”

The victory enables Esky to host Norway today at 2 (EDT). Kingsford returns to Lemerand Park today at noon to face Tri-County.

“Staying on top of the bracket is always huge,” said Segorski. “It enables you to stay out of trouble and save on arms. We hadn’t played a game in a month and were a little rusty. Kingsford has a nice squad. They’re well coached, and they played real well.”

Esky, fueled by LaViolette’s two-run double along the leftfield line and VanPortfliet’s single to left, scored five times in the second.

The winners then finished the scoring by adding five runs in the fifth.

“The second inning helped settle the kids down,” said Segorski.

Kingsford’s best scoring chance took place in the fourth when Kaitlyn Hicks drew a leadoff walk and Cassandra Dumke singled to right with nobody out. The Dickinson County squad, however, left them stranded at second and third.

“We’re proud of the girls,” said Kingsford manager Steve Clement. “Other than one bad inning, our defense did good. Our pitching also did good. Escanaba has a well-oiled machine. Their second pitcher was probably the most solid and their players know where they’re supposed to go on defense.”

Mariah Clement pitched four innings and absorbed the loss. She fanned one, walked one and gave up five runs on four hits.

Kingsford committed five errors, including three in the fifth. Esky had no miscues.

Esky finished with seven hits, led by VanPortfliet and Taylor Segorski with two apiece.

In an earlier game, Norway unleashed a 14-hit attack in an 18-4 conquest of Tri-County.

Jordyn Kraemer, Britta Grayvold, Sara Nown and winning pitcher Barbie Slagle had two hits apiece.

“The girls hit the ball well, plus we had a couple innings where we put them down in order,” said Norway manager Brad Grayvold. “We know Escanaba has a very good team and Kingsford has come a long way. We’ve also come a long way. I really enjoy working with the kids. The girls give you 100 percent and they love to play.”

The contest was tied at 2 after two innings. Norway then scored three times each in the third and fourth and added four in the fifth for a 12-2 advantage.

Tri-County, however, forced the game to go the full seven frames by scoring twice in the fifth.

Norway, taking advantage of five walks and two errors, ended the scoring with six in the seventh.

“Barbie pitched a good game, but started rushing things a little in the fifth,” said manager Grayvold. “We told her to slow down and let the defense do the work. We wanted her to see what it’s like to finish a game. She needs to develop that experience at some point anyway.

Slagle, who tossed a three-hitter, fanned seven, walked seven and hit two batters. Three of her free passes took place in the first when Tri-County scored twice to tie the score. She also walked a pair in the fifth.

Tri-County made five pitching changes after Sydney Emard worked the first three innings.

Emard pitched a total of four innings, striking out one, walking one and allowing five runs on seven hits.

“This is Superior Central’s future varsity team,” said Tri-County manager Martha Verbrigghe, who resigned as SC’s manager on Tuesday. “Half of these kids are age 11. They’re going to be good in a few years.

“Two weeks ago, were scheduled to play Monday night at Gladstone with our full team. Then, we found out we were coming here earlier this week. Many of our kids are gone for various reasons. One girl joined the team this afternoon and three others joined on Thursday. We had kids playing out of position, but they all stepped up. We’re proud of their effort.”