Esko team falls one game short of World SeriesThe Esko Nitro, the smallest team in the eight-team field at the Intermediate Little League Central Regional Tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich., fell twice to West Portage, Mich., in the finals of that event.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
In the end, the Little Engine That Could fell one game short.
The Esko Nitro, the smallest team in the eight-team field at the Intermediate Little League Central Regional Tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich., fell twice to West Portage, Mich., in the finals of that event.
The losses ended their dream one game short of the Intermediate World Series.
Last Wednesday, Esko defeated West Portage 14-9 to reach the winner’s bracket finals behind a four-hit performance from Carter Northey. Ryan Nelson was the winning pitcher while Sam Dupuis scored three runs.
But the Michiganders won their way back through the losers’ bracket for the right to a rematch, and defeated the Nitro twice last Friday, by 5-4 and 9-1.
In the first game, Esko led 4-3 in the sixth inning but lost the lead in the sixth and the game in the seventh. Quinn Fischer worked into the seventh inning in the game and allowed two earned runs, while Nelson and Brody Kaldahl each had two hits.
The Michigan team then steamrolled Esko 9-1 in the final contest, with Branden Matteen knocking in his team’s run.
The defeat ended the all-star team’s time together with an 8-2 record.
“There was a good hour of tears after that second game,” Coach Shawn Northey said. “[Our players] wanted to win one more game and I don’t blame them. It was disappointment, not in themselves but in knowing there was the potential to go further and they didn’t make it.
“We just played a very good team and we saw a lot of good teams there,” Northey added.
The fact that the West Portage team was able to sleep in its own beds just an hour away from the field helped them too.
“We were in our hotel for seven days and we came out a little flat,” he said. “We weren’t our typical selves in the last two games. We had a couple of physical and mental errors that might have helped and we didn’t capitalize on their mistakes.”
That said, the pride the group feels in itself is immense.
“It’s more than just as a coach, it’s a family thing,” Northey said. “As a proud father of my own child as well as the coach of the other 11 kids, there’s something there now I could never have dreamed of. To see the smiles on their faces and to show them that hard work really does pay off is great. I couldn’t be more excited for the kids and the parents.”
Northey said the experience will help the players as they approach high school age <\_> if they continue to work hard.
“Some will get better, some will plateau,” he said. “They can’t be complacent. They have seen better competition now but other kids will pass them up if they don’t keep working. I still do think that this group will see much more success in their careers.”
Northey thanked the community for its support.
“The community and the parents were great for helping offset our costs and for investing their time and trust in the coaching staff,” Northey said. “I need to thank my wife (Sue) as well. We went down there on a bus with 40 people and we became a family of 40.”