Blues opens tournament Thursday against old nemesis Hudson

MARQUETTE – His team has played Hudson twice since 2011 and lost both times at the state Class A American Legion baseball tournament.

Still, Marquette Blues manager Derek Swajanen is confident his club will make a good tournament showing beginning at noon Thursday in Gladwin against Hudson.

“I feel pretty good (about the tourney),” he said Tuesday. “Even though we didn’t win the U.P.’s, we went 4-1.

“We’ve won some tourneys this year and I hope to get deep into the tournament this year.”

Swajanen is well aware of the tough task at hand for the Blues, however. Hudson – the defending state champion – beat Marquette 9-0 in semifinal play in 2011 and 4-3 in 2012.

“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” he said, “but we might as well go right at them.”

Hudson, Swajanen said, likes to play “small ball.”

“They’re good fundamentally and like to put runners in motion,” he said.

Swajanen added effective pitching – and timely hitting – will be keys for the Blues in the double-elimination tournament.

“The first game, we’ll use our top-of-the-line pitcher (Trevor Bratonia) and lineup,” he said. “Then, we’ll see where the chips fall from there.”

A win over Hudson would then keep the Blues in the winner’s bracket for a game against host Gladwin at 6 p.m. Thursday. A loss and they fall to the losers’ bracket for a 9 a.m. Friday contest.

Gladstone – the Zone 5 champion – and Escanaba are also in the tourney, as well as Petoskey. The early Friday game would be against one of those three teams.

The Blues manager said Bratonia has been consistent and around the plate all season.

“He can throw hard at times and has a good curveball,” Swajanen said. “He mixes his pitches and is learning how to pitch effectively.”

McKinley Larson, Hunter Larson and Ryan Hanson have been carrying the Blues at the plate all season, with help from Derek Stone, Levi Underwood, Payton LeBombard and Ryan Walther.

LeBombard knocked in four runs against Ishpeming in one Zone 5 tourney game, then followed that with six RBIs in a contest against Escanaba.

Defensively, the Blues have been “real good” this season, Swajanen said.

“We’ve had a couple of lapses, but overall, we’ve been getting outs when we’ve needed them,” he said.

Hudson advanced to the state tourney with the help of an 8-7 (in nine innings) and 3-2 wins over Ida on Friday.

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