By K.D. Norris
The District 9 Southern League team completed an impressive run of weekend wins Sunday in a battle of two 2-0 teams, scoring eight runs in the first inning and going on to defeat District 4 Commerce 27-3 in five innings. The win advances Southern to the Michigan state Senior Little League tournament finals today, Monday, July 17, at 5:30 p.m.
WKTV covered Southern’s first three games live, and will cover the title game and broadcast it on a delayed basis, at 8 p.m. Monday, July 17.
The tournament is hosted by Southern Little League. All games will be at the Southern Little League field complex at 2525 Kalamazoo Ave. SW, just north of 28th Avenue. The title game will be followed by a second title game to follow, if necessary.
The winner of the state tournament will play in the Central Regional tournament, along with teams from nine other Midwest states, in Peru, Ill.
Southern’s opponent in the finals will be District 5 Taylor NW, which defeated Commerce 6-5 in the elimination bracket finals Sunday night. Taylor will enter the game with a 4-1 record, having lost in opening-round action Friday to District 7 St. Clair, 6-5.
On Sunday, against Commerce, Southern scored eight runs in the first inning, showed off great defense to match its great offense — including catcher John Shelton IV cutting down a Commerce runner trying to steal second base — and gained great pitching from three pitchers. Kyle Tepper went two innings in relief for Southern, including getting three strikeouts in the third inning. Among many big hits, Luke Passinault’s fourth-inning double knocked in three runners and pushed the Southern lead to 15-0.
On Saturday, 10 runs was more then enough as three Southern pitchers combined to limit St. Clair to one run on three hits while striking out 9 in a 10-1 winners bracket win. Luke Elzinga started the game on the mound for Southern and went three innings for the win, giving up no hits while striking out five and walking two. Joe Collins and Nick Lambert each went two innings in relief. Elzinga left the game with just a two-run lead, but Southern scored 2 in the fourth inning and 4 in the fifth to give the relief pitchers a cushion. Keegan Batka led the offense with three hits and five runs batted in.
On Friday, Southern gained 4 runs-batted-in from John Shelton — including a massive solo home run to left field in the second inning — and Jack Billo and Nate Trudeau each had three RBI as the host team scored 15 runs in the first inning against District 16’s Onsted and went on to 22-1 in a 5-inning game.
The Southern team is an all-star team made up of players, age 15-16, selected by the coaches from four Senior level teams who played in the Southern Little League this season.
WKTV covered all District 9 Southern games and DVDs of all games are available at WKTV.org/shop.