American Legion baseball: Marquette Blues open season with home split

MARQUETTE – The Marquette Blues American Legion baseball team took advantage of the warm temperatures and sun on Sunday to split a season-opening doubleheader against the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Black Sox at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette.

The Blues lost the opener, 10-8, but rallied for an 11-0 win in Game 2.

“We were a little rusty today and it showed,” Blues manager Derek Swajanen said. “This was our first game of the season and we are really behind in our practice schedule compared to where we usually are. Everybody is.”

The Blues’ second game only lasted five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

Marquette out-hit the Black Sox 10-1 in the victory with first baseman Riley Lynch finishing 3 for 3 with three RBIs and a triple. Left fielder McKinley Larson was 2 for 3 with an RBI and triple while third baseman Trevor Bratonia was 1 for 1 with an RBI, a double and two walks.

Blues’ pitcher Ryan Hanson earned the win, walking three and striking out six in four innings.

“Our pitching was much better in game two,” Swajanen said. “We didn’t give a lot of free passes and played very good defense behind Ryan. McKinley came in in the last (inning) and closed the game very nicely for us today.”

Marquette, which is coming off Mid Pen League regular season and postseason titles, was outhit 10-6 in the first game. The Blues stranded five runners and gave up 11 walks as well.

Luke Swajanen was handed the loss on the mound after coming on in relief. He gave up five runs – two earned – on two hits with three walks against nine batters in one and a third inning.

Starting pitcher Colin O’Neal faced 18 batters over three innings. He walked six, struck out three and gave up five runs – three earned – on three hits.

Center fielder Ryan Walther finished 1 for 2 at the plate with a home run in the first Blues at bat of the season, followed by two walks and three runs scored. Rynch and shortstop Hunter Larson each had two hits as well.

“I was a little disappointed in starting the season with a loss, but all in all it showed us as coaches some things that we need to work on,” Swajanen said.

“Overall I was real happy with our first two games of the season. We are a much younger team, but I think we will be every bit as strong as last year as the season progresses.”