Redmen walk off Gremlins

MARQUETTE – In the immortal words of Yankee great Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again for Luke McAuliffe and the Marquette Redmen baseball team at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette on Tuesday.

The team’s No. 7 hitter collected a game-winning, walk-off single not once but twice in the Redmen’s 8-7 and 4-3 high school baseball victories over Houghton.

When the junior first baseman came to the plate to finish off each game, MSHS had the lead just once during the doubleheader. But the Redmen had enough fight in them to pull off comebacks and improve to 16-7.

“It’s a disappointment that we were behind both games, but I can’t say enough about Luke McAuliffe,” Marquette manager Todd Koski said.

“I changed the lineup around some to get all of our seniors starting. But really, we have 13 players who are interchangeable. They all contribute, so it gives me a lot of flexibility in how I can handle the lineup.”

The Redmen trailed 5-0 in the opener before scoring three runs in the sixth to pull close. That was shortlived, however, as the Gremlins (6-9-1) responded with two runs in the top of the seventh to re-establish a comfortable 7-3 lead.

Houghton starting pitcher Trent Keteri commanded the plate in the first five innings, surrendering just one hit.

“Yeah, that was me,” McAuliffe said in answer to who had that hit.

Keteri noticeably tired in the sixth, prompting Gremlins manager John Bostwick to bring in relief help for the seventh.

But five of Marquette’s first six batters reached base against Houghton’s relief with four of them singling.

With one out, junior Brendan Higbie tied the game with a blooper that fell just in front of Gremlins rightfielder Alan Jurmu.

Higbie’s stolen base and an infield pop-up brought McAuliffe to the plate with two outs and the game-winning run in scoring position.

About three pitches in, McAuliffe found the sweet spot he used to get his first hit and numerous other batters used to hit safely throughout the day – a hard-hit, bounding ball directly over second base between the middle infielders.

“I was just trying to get my bat on the ball,” said McAuliffe, who looks the part of a power hitter with a stature reminiscent of a football lineman. “I can’t rush it and I have to make sure I don’t overswing.

“Nice easy contact is what I’m looking for.”

What he got was a rush onto the field by his teammates.

Game 2 was a defensive struggle with the sun setting and temperatures dipping into the 40s.

Marquette rallied for two runs in the sixth to take a 3-2 lead. Higbie and sophomore Jake Phillips reached with nobody out before McAuliffe had the first chance to knock them in. But he popped out instead.

A walk loaded the bases and No. 9 hitter Garrett Finkbeiner, a freshman who didn’t see the field in the first game, laced a single over second base to send two men home.

Houghton tied it in the top of the seventh when leadoff batter Jonathan Bostwick singled over second base and Reid Pietila later knocked him in.

It didn’t look like McAuliffe would be called upon for his heroics this time as the fifth batter due up in a tie ballgame. Apple singled with one out and a walk put two on for Phillips.

“He told me, ‘You had your chance last game, I’m going to do it this time,'” McAuliffe recalled Phillips saying.

But Houghton reliever Connor Hannon plunked Phillips in the back to load the bases.

And bring up McAuliffe.

With a look at a pitch or two, McAuliffe lined the ball over the third baseman’s head, scoring junior Gabe Apple to again bring the delirious Redmen onto the field.

McAuliffe made winners of junior relievers Brett Beauchamp and Brandon Lotterman. Beauchamp went three innings in Game 1, then Lotterman worked five innings of the nightcap.

“I don’t think I was supposed to pitch, but (starter) Jay (Oberg) looked like his arm was a little sore,” said Lotterman, another lineman-like player who snagged a number of comebackers for easy outs.

“You wouldn’t think so by looking at him, but Lotterman sneaks up on a lot of people as a pitcher,” Todd Koski said. “He’s a good athlete and fields the position well.”

Apple was the lone Redman with two hits each game, while Jonathan Bostwick had three hits for the Gremlins in the opener.