Rain disrupts Major tournament

ISHPEMING – The on-and-off rain picked the perfect day to disrupt the Little League Major Division state tournament being held in Ishpeming.

Thursday’s pretournament activities were moved indoors to the Ishpeming High School gym because of the threat of lightning, while an individual skills contest got pushed back to after today’s final game is played.

Other than that, though, organizers hoped the rain would move out in time to keep a busy six days of games on schedule that were to start this morning on two fields at the Ishpeming Ballfield Complex.

“We have some leeway with the inclement weather,” said tournament director Jeff Adriano, who is also treasurer of the Ishpeming LL.

The leeway would have to come from the early morning or late evening hours, though, as a continuous set of games are set on adjacent fields from 10 a.m. until the last game ends around 7:30 p.m. today through Sunday.

Sixteen teams from all over the state, including three from the Upper Peninsula, were introduced at the school on Thursday.

Each team had a chance to march to center court with its district championship banner, then took a seat on one side of the bleachers as relatives, friends and Ishpeming-area residents sat on the other side to cheer them on.

Following the singing of the national anthem by Courtney Olgren of Ishpeming and recitation of the Little League Pledge by emcee Mike Truscott, Ishpeming High School state champion football coach Jeff Olson spoke for about 10 minutes to the assembled players, nearly all ages 11 to 13.

He talked about adversity and the fact that everybody will be dealt setbacks during their lives. The key is to learn how to deal with them and become a better, stronger person because of them.

It was a chance for a rare break from organizing for Adriano.

“I feel like I’ve had a phone growing out of my ear for the last three days,” he said. “There’s been lots of calls.”

He explained that rains downstate delayed some district tournaments there and a few champions weren’t crowned until Tuesday.

That meant last-minute plans had to be made with the winning teams for a trip to an area “up north” many had never visited before.

“It’s about a 7 1/2-hour trip for us,” said Tom Fine, head coach of the Roosevelt Park District 12 champs from the Muskegon area.

“This is my first experience with this tournament. I feel like we’re a pretty good team, but everybody has to be pretty good to get this far.”

The tournament format allows every team to play a game a day for three days, while those reaching the championship game will have played six games in six days.

Squads are broken into four pools each with four teams, and following a round-robin schedule within each pool, the top eight teams advance to Monday’s knockout-round quarterfinals. Semifinals are on Tuesday and the championship contest is Wednesday.

The three U.P. teams – Iron Mountain, Portage Lake and Sault Ste. Marie – are in separate pools.

At stake is a berth in a multi-state regional tournament that can lead to making the Little League World Series played in Williamsport, Pa., with some of the later-stage games played on national television.