IRONWOOD - Madison Huotari pitched a no-hitter and Penokee Range used a powerful hitting attack to blitz Keweenaw 12-1 in five innings in the Michigan District 11 Little League ages 9-10 softball tournament held at the John Krznarich Field on Sunday afternoon.
Penokee Range is composed of players from Hurley, Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield and now advances to the championship game on Tuesday at 5 p.m. The host team will play the winner of tonight's Baraga-Keweenaw game in this double-elimination tournament. If another game is needed to decide the championship, it will be on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Manager Ryan Niemi knew Penokee Range brought out its A game on Sunday.
"We played real well," Niemi said. "We practiced two and one-half weeks after their league games, so I was a little concerned we were practiced out, but Madison Huotari threw the no-hitter with an unearned run, our defense was good and every girl had a hit. Brooke Ofstad had an inside-the-park home run. I feel real good about the district and our (championship) game on Tuesday."
Keweenaw manager Judy Chezek said her team had defeated Baraga on Saturday but ran into a buzzsaw against the Penokee girls.
"Penokee Range is a solid ball club," Chezek said. "They can hit and they fielded everything we hit at them. They had some strong pitching and we didn't get enough runners on base to make something happen. But I'm really proud of the girls. They kept playing ball."
Keweenaw will play Baraga again on Monday and the winner will have to defeat Penokee Range twice to advance out of the district tournament.
After a scoreless first inning, Penokee Range broke the game open with a five-run second inning. Darien Bender whistled a low line-drive over second base for a base hit and Kylee Maki and Vienna Harju followed with singles to left. Keweenaw made some wild throws and Bender and Maki crossed the plate with the first two runs.
Olivia France walked and she and Harju later scored on wild pitches. MacKenzie Backman scored when Haily Edyvean's laced a single.
Huotari was in the process of pitching a gem. She struck out seven of the first eight batters she faced and whiffed 12 for the game. Only two walks kept her from throwing a perfect game, but any pitcher will take shutting down the opposition with a no-hitter.
Penokee Range put the game on ice in the third inning with four more runs. Maki and France punched out singles, Harju walked and Ofstad hammered a ball by the outfielders and she sprinted home with an inside-the-park round-tripper.
Penokee Range led 9-1 and plated three more runs in the fifth to end the game on the 10-run rule.
Penokee Range pounded out 15 hits in five innings and were led Maki and France, who were perfect at the plate going 2-2 and Huotari, Bender and Harju also had two hits.
Penokee Range 0 5 4 0 3 - 12 15 1
Keweenaw 0 1 0 0 0 - 1 0 5