Blues survive test

MARQUETTE – For the Marquette Blues, they didn’t want their season to come down to one game.

But for the Ishpeming Blue Storm, it was a chance to pull off a great upset in the local American Legion baseball tournament.

In the end, the Blues prevailed 13-0 in what turned out to be the most important game of the state Class A Zone 5 event when they played for third place on Saturday afternoon at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette.

Because three of the six teams advance to the state finals later this week in downstate Gladwin, the difference between third and fourth places was monumental.

And the Blues used superior depth and a knack at taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes to make the final result somewhat anticlimatic.

“We had that one bad inning,” Blue Storm manager Ryan Mahoski said referring to the Blues’ second inning. “They scored, what, seven runs, on only three hits. That’s because we committed three errors and had two walks.

“The good teams will make you pay for your mistakes, especially when they have so much good pitching.

“But we’re a young team and still growing, he added.”

The Blue Storm saved their season a day earlier by upsetting Menominee 8-6. That lone win of their first three contests was enough to keep them alive for the semifinals after Hancock went winless in its three games.

“We played an errorless game against Menominee,” Mahoski said. “That’s something I know we have to get better at. We can be competitive when we don’t give away outs in the field.”

Marquette went 3-0 in preliminary games Thursday and Friday before its offense came up missing in action Saturday morning in a 6-0 semifinal loss to Escanaba, even though the Blues held a 3-2 advantage in hits.

“Our No. 1 goal was to qualify for states, and while we didn’t win the U.P.’s, we did accomplish that goal,” Blues manager Derek Swajanen said. “We just had that one bad game (Saturday) morning. Our run differential was tremendous otherwise.

“We had men in scoring position in each of the first three innings and we didn’t get anything.”

It was a different case vs. Ishpeming.

“It’s those timely hits we’ve been getting all year,” Swajanen said. “I don’t worry about our pitching. We have plenty of it.”

In the decisive second inning of the third-place game, Sam Leow singled following a leadoff walk, then Ryan Walther brought both runners home with a hit.

Ishpeming infield fielding errors subsequently brought three more runs home and the rout was on, even though losing hurler Connor Hanlon got the final two outs on swinging strikeouts.

Swajanen marched a parade of pitchers to the mound, Trevor Bratonia going the first two innings to get the win as they combined to allow just four singles, three walks and the Marquette defense committing no errors.

Ishpeming’s best chance to score came in the fourth, when several singles put runners on first and third. But McKinley Larson induced a groundout to end that threat.

Leow, Walther, Derek Stone, Riley Lynch and Ryan Hanson each had two of the Blues’ 13 hits, while Thomas Finegan had two of Ishpeming’s four.

Gladstone outscored Ishpeming 14-4 in five innings of the other semifinal, then in the championship, Gladstone held off a late Escanaba rally to score a 5-3 victory for the Zone 5 title as the Indians’ Jake Pearson was named MVP.

In that game, the Cubs’ Tyler Skufca hit a solo homer in the first, but Gladstone rallied to take the lead in the fourth on an RBI-double by Christian Groleau and RBI triple by Sam Pouliot.

The Indians upped the lead to 5-1 in the fifth when Pearson cracked a two-out, two-run single and Groleau had an RBI single. Nick Vandermissen and Bailey Lamb had RBI singles in the sixth for Esky.

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