Little League softball state tourney

ESCANABA – The Negaunee Minor Girls’ (age 9-10) Little League All-Stars found a way to stay alive in the state softball tournament, outlasting Clare 11-9 Tuesday in a quarterfinal contest at Lemerand Park.

Negaunee, fueled by a big sixth inning for the second straight day, advanced to today’s semifinals against Grandville at noon. That contest was to be preceded by the Jackson Northwest/Hillman match-up at 10.

The winners gained an 11-6 lead by scoring six times in the top of the sixth, taking advantage of five walks and a hit batter.

Clare, however, trimmed its deficit to 11-7 on a bases-loaded walk to Monica McPhall and finished the scoring on Nicole Taylor’s two-run single to rightfield.

The downstate team appeared ready to tie the score when it had baserunners on second and third with one out.

But Negaunee pitcher Larissa Anderson then retired the final two hitters to preserve the victory.

“No lead is safe in this tournament,” said Negaunee manager Mark Menhennick. “This is similar to yesterday’s game where we gained a lot of momentum in the sixth inning. I was actually calling for the girls to take a lot of pitches. They had a good pitcher, but it looked like she was getting tired.”

In Monday’s game, Negaunee scored four runs in the sixth to eliminate Kingsford 11-5.

On Tuesday, Negaunee also played an opportunist’s role in the fourth, scoring three times by taking advantage of four walks and an error for a 5-3 lead.

Clare, fueled by Leah Palmer’s two-run single to right, then scored three times in the fifth for a 6-5 lead.

“We hit the ball a ton and they made a lot of good plays,” said Clare manager Bob Tocco. “They’re a tough team. They have 2-3 powerhouse hitters we needed to work around. Their third-baseman (Karlie Patron) is a load. We definitely tried to work around her.”

Patron, who ripped a double to right for a 1-0 lead in the first, finished with two hits.

Clare pitcher Brooklyn Tocco then walked Patron twice and retired her on a grounder in her last plate appearance.

Taylor had three and Palmer added two of Clare’s nine hits off Anderson.

Shortstop Allie Ennett, however, backed Anderson with six put-outs, including three straight in the opening frame. Her teammates did likewise.

“Allie had whale of a game,” said Menhennick. “Everytime the ball was hit to her, she sucked it up. I think the first inning set the tone for Allie. That helped her and the other girls relax.”

Manager Tocco was also impressed with Ennett, who robbed Jalyn Burhans of a possible extra base hit by snagging a line shot in the second after Clare had taken a 2-1 lead.

“She (Ennett) fielded a lot of balls for them, which kind of got our girls down,” he said. “We were hitting the ball and she kept making plays.”

Anderson pitched the entire contest for the win. She struck out five and walked six.

Brooklyn Tocco absorbed the loss despite tossing a three-hitter. She fanned 10, but walked 14 and hit two batters.

Clare committed three errors and Negaunee had one miscue.