Legion Blues struggle at plate as Gladstone posts 3-0 shutout

MARQUETTE – Baseball has a long enough season that managers know when their teams need a chance to recharge.

That’s true in the 162-game schedule of the Major Leagues even if managers don’t want to admit it, and it’s true for the Marquette Blues American Legion team that was playing its 41st game of the season.

Gladstone came to Gerard Haley Memorial Field in north Marquette and shut out the Blues, 3-0, on Wednesday evening.

“I feel comfortable with this game,” Blues manager Derek Swajanen said as his team still is an impressive 32-9. “We’ve been playing a lot of ball lately, and it was an emotional weekend winning down in Marinette.”

That was the Firecracker Tournament played just over the Wisconsin line where the Blues did enough in four games against tough Badger State opposition to clinch the title.

“I know we’ve been traveling a lot, so I’m not surprised we were a bit flat,” Swajanen said. “But we played spectacular defense the first four or five innings (Wednesday), and as long as we’re not getting out of the strike zone with our swings, I think we’re all right.”

At the plate, Marquette managed just three singles off winning pitcher Jake Peterson, who went the distance while striking out nine and walking two.

Swajanen gave Peterson credit for effectively mixing his pitches and keeping Blues batters off-balance.

“Jake hasn’t thrown since (the) high school (season),” Gladstone manager Jim Groleau said. “He’d had a sore arm. But he located his ball well (Wednesday).”

The Blues turned double plays in the first and fourth innings, both started by third baseman Ryan Hanson throwing to second baseman Derek Stone and completing it with the turn to first baseman McKinley Larson.

But the Indians still managed to manufacture the runs they needed, keyed by the No. 1 hitter in the lineup, Christian Tackman.

“Tackman gives us a heckuva spark,” Groleau said. “He has a nonstop motor and he runs like a deer.”

Tackman led off the fourth and sixth innings with hits and scored his team’s first two runs.

He doubled to left-center in the fourth, moving to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a fielder’s choice play to make it 1-0. The subsequent double play prevented further damage for the Blues.

The Indians coach refused to pass up chances to tack on single runs the rest of the way, leading to successful sacrifice bunts in each of the final three innings.

The bunts came immediately after the leadoff batter reached base, and the final two scored – one on an RBI single by Jake Pearson and the other aided by a stolen base and a throwing error on a pickoff attempt.

Though Peterson wriggled out of difficulty in the second and third innings, when the Blues advanced a runner to third base each time, he caught his second wind by retiring 12 of 13 batters through the second out in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Just as he was about to close out the deal, he suddenly lost his touch. Blues pinch-hitter Sam Leow singled sharply to left-center, then Colton Wiggins and Hunter Larson drew walks to load the bases.

Stone could’ve cleared the bases to tie it or knock it over the fence to win it. Instead, he hit a shallow fly to left that was caught to end the game.

“Actually, the plan was to take (Peterson) out a couple batters before, but (bench player) Justin Jurek convinced me he could finish,” Jim Groleau said. “But he had to get that last guy, or he was coming out of the game.”

Gladstone’s Legion team is only 3-4 after waiting to start their season until after the Braves’ high school squad completed a Cinderella run to the MHSAA Division 3 semifinals as a second-year program less than three weeks ago.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.