Unbeaten Norway rolls to state berth
By RON DEUTER
IRON MOUNTAIN – Norway completed an unbeaten run through the Little League Minor (age 9-10) district tournament, dispatching Iron Mountain North 8-2 in the final Friday evening at Larry Barkle Eastside Field.
Norway advances to the state tournament at downstate Oak Ridge.
“I’m excited for them,” Norway coach Jim Moln said. “It’s all about the kids. This is their day.”
A four-run second put the Norway all-stars on the board, and that’s all they would need behind solid pitching performances from Gannon Bray and Ian Gorzinski.
Iron Mountain North was able to climb back as close as 5-2 in the fourth, but Norway answered with three more runs in the bottom of the fourth to take command.
Bray, who worked into the second before being pulled at 20 pitches, and Gorzinski limited IM’s bats to just two hits while striking out two and walking only one.
“Yeah, it was good pitching,” Moln said. “Ian, he’s been hot all week.”
Norway’s pitchers also benefitted from a few big defensive plays. Second baseman Wyatt Riley ended a second-inning threat with a nice stop of a grounder in the hole on the right side. He slid on his knees, fielding the ball the at the edge of the grass before flipping to first for the out.
Catcher Adam Loomis had a nice grab of a foul ball to end the third with an IM runner on base. In the fifth, Norway turned a big double play with no one out and a runner on third by getting a groundout to third and then the out at home. Josh Weber fired the strike from first to home to gun down the runner on a close play.
“We work on defense a lot every night,” Moln said. “That’s kind of what our focus is.”
Norway took advantage of some defense slip-ups to break the scoreless tie in the second.
Loomis doubled and Bray reached on a bunt to open the frame. Norway continued to play small ball, having Weber and Jacob Moln both bunt. That strategy paid off, leading to the first three runs of the game.
Drew Anderson added a double with two outs, and Gorzinski reached next on an error, allowing a fourth run to score.
Back-to-back walks to open the bottom of the third came back to hurt IM, as Bray was able to drive in one run with a fielder’s choice.
Iron Mountain got two back in the fourth, taking advantage of a couple of Norway miscues to extend the inning. Ian Anderson led off the inning with hard-hit grounder to right, and Jurgen Kleiman was hit by a pitch. Both went on to score when balls hit by Nick Saari and Dante Basenese were unable to be fielded cleanly.
An error on the left side of the field on a ball hit by Caleb Burklund allowed Norway to take a 6-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Later in the frame Zach Seat smoked a ground-ball double just inside the bag at third and down the line to drive in two more.
Blake Julian, who had Iron Mountain’s other hit, started and pitched into the fourth. Kleiman came on to finish.
The state tournament is set to begin July 25.
“We’ll see what happens,” Moln said. “We’re just glad to get there right now.”