NORWAY — Norway’s bats came alive early in a 17-7 win over Escanaba in the Little League Minors (9-10) district final on Monday.
Norway’s win means both teams play again at 6 p.m. today for the district title.
Escanaba staked a 3-0 lead in the top of the first with patience at the plate. Five walks boosted Escanaba, but Norway escaped a bases-loaded jam to end the rally.
Then Norway mounted a rally of its own in the bottom half. Norway tied the game with six straight hits including a triple by Cameron Varda and a double by Owen Baij.
“We came out and we hit the ball. We got down 3-0 and our kids came around. That’s our key: when we hit, we’re successful,” Norway manager Nate Burklund said. “We’re throwing some pitchers that if we have some defensive support, we should have no problem doing what we did today.
“When the kids came in, we told them that’s just three and let’s go do our work. And we did. We watched the ball and they’ve been doing that the last couple days. Saturday we were sluggish. That makes a difference.”
Escanaba’s bats stayed quiet, spreading six hits across the four innings in the mercy rule-shortened game.
Escanaba’s three-run fourth forced Norway’s hand.
As it had in the first inning, Norway responded again with a three-run bottom half to pad the lead by 10 runs and invoke the mercy rule.
Escanaba was perhaps too patient at the plate, manager Andy Fields said.
“It kind of backfired on us,” he said. “Their first pitcher was a little wild, so our batters got their bats on their shoulders and the bats stayed on their shoulders too long … We’ve seen them three times and they’re going to see us three times. It’s going to be an interesting game (today).”
Fields said the team’s character came through in the fourth, adding three runs including a pair of two-out RBI singles.
“We have a group here that doesn’t quit,” Fields said. “We played in the Yooper Tournament and we got down in the game we lost. We didn’t quit in that one either. These boys like to fight.”
In Saturday’s first game between the teams, Escanaba won 4-1. Brian Boutilier and Owen Fields had the only hits for Escanaba. Escanaba drew five walks and was hit by three pitches in the game. Norway went up 1-0 in the first, but Escanaba’s 4 pitchers shut down Norway the rest of the way.
Sharing pitching duties was Ashton Rymkos, Owen Fields, Grayson Davis (who picked up the win) and Taylor Asgaard with the save.