GLADSTONE - One crack of the bat made a world of difference Wednesday night as the Munising Major Boys' Little League (age 11-12) All-Stars handed Escanaba a 3-2 loss in an area tournament finale at Howes Family Field.
The elimination-bracket victory enables Munising to advance to the District 10 tournament at Iron Mountain, where it opens play Friday at 6 p.m.
First-baseman Dayne Murk provided the scoring for Munising on his three-run homer to leftfield in the first inning.
"It stinks to have one inning beat you," said Esky manager Pete Schlenvogt. "I knew he could hit and thought about (intentionally) walking him. But once we got two strikes on him, we felt if we kept the ball inside, our guy (Jayden Gravelle) could retire him. Then, we gave him an inside pitch and he turned on it."
Esky got on the board in the third on Jordan Schafer's bloop single to shallow centerfield and scored its second run on Noah Lancour's single to left in the sixth.
"They (Esky) were definitely coming," said Munising manager Jim Seaberg. "There's no quit in that group of kids. We jumped on them quick, then they locked down on us. They had us reeling."
Esky had baserunners on second and third with one out in the sixth. Gravelle, however, was thrown out trying to score on a bunt by Taylor Geyer.
"Once the bunt went back to the pitcher (Russ Holloway), I should have kept him at third," said Schlenvogt. "That was another big decision I made that cost us tonight."
That gave Esky its second out moments before Lancour's run-scoring single. Holloway, however, then struck out Ayden Hanson to preserve the victory.
"It was a definitely a relief for us to get that final out," said Seaberg. "Overall, the kids played good. Getting three innings (of pitching) from Mason Smith was huge."
Anthony Mattson, the first of three Munising pitchers, struck out four, walked one and gave up a hit through two innings. Smith then fanned four, walked one, hit two batters and allowed a run on two hits in the next three frames prior to Holloway taking over in the sixth.
Gravelle, who worked the first 2 2/3 innings, absorbed the loss. He whiffed three, walked none and surrendered three hits.
Hanson took over after Gravelle retired the first two hitters in the third. Munising then loaded the bases, but the inning ended when Murk was thrown out trying to extend its lead on Austin Killips' grounder.
Murk and Mattson had two hits each for Munising, which finished with six.
Esky had four hits and stranded nine baserunners, at least one in each inning.
"We played good defense to stay in it," said Schlenvogt. "The kids were nervous and didn't hit the ball the way they're capable. We had fun, though. We had a nice bunch of kids to work with. I just wish we could have played more than three games."