Norway beats Esky for minors district title

Plays Saturday in Bay City

Owen Baij, center, holds the trophy and looks on as the Norway Little League minor baseball team poses after beating Escanaba 12-2 in the championship on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Norway, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

NORWAY — Norway’s offense stayed hot to help bring in the Little League district championship with a 12-2 win over Escanaba on Tuesday.

Norway overcame another early deficit before the offense awoke with a six-run second to grab the lead for good.

“Patience — they jumped out on us 2-0 and we had to come back again,” Norway head coach Nate Burklund said. “We hit and we hit in the order where we needed to. Probably not as good as yesterday, but we did what we had to come back and get 10 on them right here at the end. The kids started to wake up — they were kind of dragging in the beginning. It makes us coaches a little bit nervous.”

Norway advances to the state tournament with its first game at 5 p.m. EST Saturday in Bay City.

Escanaba scored a pair of runs in the first inning with small ball, but never found a rhythm in the batter’s box. Escanaba was kept hitless, despite scoring a pair of runs in the first. The runs came when Gavin Wagner and Brian Boutilier reached base on a walk and hit-by-pitch, respectively. Wagner scored on a sacrifice bunt by Ashton Rymkos. Boutilier scored on an error.

Norway’s offensive surge in the second inning was helped along with hits from Owen Baij and Landon Ross. Ross’ two-out, two RBI-single tied the game. An error on a grounder by Cole Baciak allowed the go-ahead runner to score.

Norway added four runs in the third and two in the fifth.

“We lost to a good team. I wish Norway nothing but the best of luck downstate,” Escanaba head coach Andy Fields said. “They have a great team. The better team won today. We have some more work to do and we’ll be back.”

Cameron Varda’s pitching on the mound stifled Escanaba. As Norway’s hardest throwing pitcher, Fields said his team couldn’t catch up to Varda’s velocity.

“Cameron Varda, he’s a great pitcher. He’s tough to hit. We struggled hitting him the other day,” Fields said. “We got some more bats on the balls today. I thought we did the best we could against a really good pitcher … For us to get where we did is a major accomplishment.”

Varda threw his 79th pitch in the fifth inning and was replaced by Beau Maule. Varda’s pitch count means he most likely won’t be available for Saturday’s game, Burklund said.

“Cameron’s our hardest throwing pitcher. He’s come around to throw the ball hard,” Burklund said. “He’s intimidating and that’s a big difference. Throwing 79 pitches means we can’t use him Saturday, but we have some other pitchers we can use. We have shown success with our other pitchers.”

Maddex Burklund and Varda scored twice for Norway. Burklund had two singles, including a two RBI-double in the third inning. Baij had a two RBI-single in the second inning and an RBI double in the third. Maule and Noah Wheeler picked up an RBI in the fifth.

Escanaba 200 00 — 2

Norway 064 02 — 12