By John Vrancic
For The Daily News
ESCANABA - The bats warmed up for the Negaunee Minor Girls' (age 9-10) Little League All-Stars in the late innings Monday afternoon as they surged to an 11-5 triumph over Kingsford in the first elimination round of the state softball tournament.
Justin Marietti | Escanaba Daily Press Photo
Kate Cook of Kingsford pitches during the first inning of Monday’s Little League Minor softball state tournament game against Negaunee.
Negaunee collected seven of its nine hits in the last three frames, including four in a four-run sixth off Kate Cook.
"It took a while for our girls to get their timing down," said Negaunee manager Mark Menhennick. "She (Cook) pitched a little different style and speed and forced us to adjust. We hadn't seen that before."
Negaunee, the lone Upper Peninsula team remaining in the tourney, faces Clare today in a quarterfinal match-up on the west diamond at Lemerand Park.
The contest was tied at 5 after four innings, but Negaunee gained a 7-5 lead in the fifth by taking advantage of two errors and Skylar Hall's leadoff triple to rightfield.
Kingsford then had baserunners on second and third with one out in its half of the fifth, but was unable to score.
"Shutting them down in the fifth inning was a boost for our kids," said Menhennick. "That triggered some momentum going into the sixth. We've been getting consistent hitting from our girls and they've been running the bases well."
Besides its four hits, Negaunee took advantage of two miscues while finishing the scoring in the sixth.
Winning pitcher Karlie Petron threw a one-hitter and struck out the side in the first and sixth frames. She finished with 17 strikeouts and allowed eight walks.
"They had the best athlete (Petron) on the field," said Kingsford manager Jerry Roberge. "Our hitters couldn't catch up with her."
Katelyn Lammi, Shaylee Menhennick and Morgan Carlson had two hits apiece for Negaunee.
Cook fanned one and walked none through six innings of work.
Claire Mongrain had Kingsford's lone hit, an RBI single to right which tied the score at 2 in the third. Mongrain then scored on an error to give her team a 3-2 lead.
Negaunee, taking advantage of three miscues, then scored three times for a 5-3 cushion in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Kingsford tied the score at 5 by cashing in on three walks and two wild pitches.
There were 11 errors in the contest, including 10 by Kingsford.
"The kids were a little nervous out there and the errors caught up with us," said Roberge. "Ordinarily, I would put our infield up against anybody. Today, we just didn't make the plays. Although, we're happy with our tournament run. This was a great experience for our girls. Overall, they did a pretty good job."
Roberge noted five lead changes in the game.
"Negaunee had probably the best pitcher in the state," he said. "Kate Cook did not allow a walk or a pass ball."
Maddy Holmes, Lexi Roberge and Brooke Kriegl "were outstanding" in the field, he said.
Roberge expressed appreciation to coaches Rod Mongrain ,Dave Holmes and Steve Terrian "who were great with the girls" and to Back in Motion and Arms of Angels for "donating to the girls uniforms."
"I have coached a lot of teams in different sports but this is the most proud I am of these girls," Roberge said.