Larson holds off Kingsford

MARQUETTE – He was far from overpowering Tuesday night, but McKinley Larson was tough when he had to be.

The Marquette American Legion Blues starting pitcher stranded two runners in the fifth inning and three in the sixth in a 3-1 win over Kingsford at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette.

“He beared down when he had to,” Blues manager Derek Swajanen said after his team improved to 19-5 on the season. “He threw a couple of great fastballs when he had to and got some big outs.”

After Kingsford had scored a run on an RBI-single by Brandon Kowalkowski in the fourth, the visitors had runners on second and third with one out.

But Larson fanned Cole Tengesdahl swinging and Anthony Rebera on a called third strike to end the threat.

“I just wanted to throw strikes and let my defense bail me out,” Larson said. “My off-speed pitches weren’t working, so I threw fastballs 60-70 percent of the time.”

In the fifth, singles by Justin Grailer and Dan Harrington, followed by a walk by Sam Santi, loaded the bases for Kingsford (4-5).

But the righthanded Larson got out of the jam by striking out Kowalkowski swinging.

“I just knew I needed to throw the ball low and bear down more,” Larson said.

Larson finished with 11 strikeouts in a seven-inning complete game performance to win his eighth game in nine decisions this season. Larson allowed six hits and walked just two.

“He mixed his pitches well and his strikes-to-balls ratio was much better than it has been all year, something like 78 strikes and 29 balls,” Swajanen said.

Said Kingsford manager Jeff Paupore: “Mac’s a veteran and Marquette has been in these situations before. We had our chances late, but just couldn’t get the big hit.”

The Blues touched Kingsford starter Kowalkowski for all three of their runs in the first inning.

Larson – who had two singles in the game – knocked in his team’s first run with a drive to left. Then Derek Stone – who also recorded two hits in the contest – plated two more runs with a single to left.

“That was a key hit for us,” Swajanen said. “Derek had been hot (at the plate) early, but went into a slump for 5-10 games.

“We moved him down from the No. 2 hole to No. 7 and it worked out.”

Kowalkowski settled down after the first inning and allowed but four Blues baserunners the rest of the way.

“Their pitcher did a nice job adjusting,” Swajanen said. “In the second inning, he started going fastball, curveball and mixing things up. I told the guys they just had to put the ball in play.”

Kowalkowski finished with a four-hitter over six innings. He walked four and fanned five.

“When BK started throwing more curves, it settled him down and the fastball came in,” Paupore said. “We just needed him to locate his curve.

“I’m proud of the kids. They could have died after being down 3-0 early, but they battled. We just need to hit.”

Harrington finished with two hits to lead Kingsford.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.