Esky boys make history

ESCANABA – Dickson Field P.A. announcer Steve Howes couldn’t hide his excitement.

“For the first time since 1999, Escanaba are Yooper Tournament champions!” he said to a talented team of 9-10 year old boys who had just accomplished that very thing, defeating Kingsford 10-1.

Watching the Esky boys work Monday evening, it was hard to imagine it had been 15 years, long before anyone on the team was born, since the home team had lifted the Yooper Tournament championship trophy.

“I didn’t know, I had no idea,” said Esky manager Darren Bray about how long it had been. “I coached my older son in a couple of these before, but I never realized it went back that far.”

Casey Bray was excellent on the mound and Jaeger LaMarche and Trent Lawson had the hot bats to help carry Escanaba to victory.

“There’s some talented kids here and it’s interesting to see how they grow,” said Bray. “They’re coachable and you usually don’t get kids that at 9 and 10 understand bigger concepts. It’s really nice to coach them because you can add more to it that you usually can’t do at that age.”

Esky broke open a close 2-1 game in the bottom of the fourth, tagging Kingsford for eight runs and effectively putting the game well out of reach.

Lawson, Nick Rousseau and Stephen Weinert loaded the bases with no outs on consective hits. Jaeger LaMarche then hit a sac-grounder scoring a run. On the next play, Bray ripped an RBI single that scored Rousseau. Matt Zimmerman rounded third and pulled out too far, getting caught in a pickle. After Kingsford catcher Henry McRoberts and third baseman Danny Weber threw back and forth a couple times trying to force the runner out, Zimmerman seized his opportunity and dove for third. The throw to home was overthrown and Zimmerman scored.

Things began to unravel from there. The next three runs were scored off passed balls before Adam Willette’s sac-grounder scored two more.

However, to Kingsford’s credit, they didn’t fold. One more Escanaba run would have ended the game prematurely, but after pitcher Nathan Bousley hit his pitch count, McRoberts came in and got the final out needed to end the inning.

Kingsford then squashed Escanaba’s attempt to end the game in the fifth, as Weinert was thrown out sliding into home plate and Jaeger LaMarche was thrown out trying to steal second.

Escanaba compiled nine hits. Lawson had two hits and Jaeger LaMarche had two hits and a walk. On the mound Bray struck out six and allowed one hit. He walked two and hit one batter over 5.1 innings of work.

Bousley absorbed the loss for Kingsford. He struck out four and allowed seven hits and three walks in 4.2 innings.

After the final out, the Esky boys celebrated, some climbing the fence near the scoreboard and the rest high fiving and fist bumping as manager Bray looked on.

“It’s a good parent group we have with these boys,” he said. “The parents are really involved and the kids get along with each other too. There’s no jealousy or any problems that way. They treat each other well, and that’s because of the parents, definitely.”

Escanaba will open the 9-10 All-Star District Tournament next week with the same team.

“It’s a good mixture,” said Bray. “They all play a bunch of different positions and we probably have 6-7 pitchers which will help us in the tournament, having that depth.”