Braves barrage leads to sweep

GLADSTONE – Even in Gladstone manager Don Lauscher’s most optimistic projections, he didn’t see this coming – three mercy rule victories out of six games so far on the Braves opening homestand, and six victories.

But that’s exactly what his team accomplished.

Not bad for a brand new team.

“I absolutely wasn’t expecting this,” Lauscher said after his team swept Superior Central 4-2 and 12-1 over five innings Monday evening at Don Olsen Field. “The biggest thing is (assistant coach) Kurt (Lauscher) working with the pitchers and (assistant coach) BJ (Lauscher) working with the catchers – Sam (Pouliot) and Justin (Jurek) are doing a great job.”

Hits were scarce in the opener, but the Braves made it work, overcoming three errors in the victory. Christian Tackman was dominant on the mound, allowing three hits and striking out 10 in earning the win.

“The defense wasn’t very sharp, we were kind of flat,” said Lauscher. “Tackman had a nice game for his first game this year. Pitching has been keeping us in games and tonight was no different.”

Lucas LaCosse knocked in the Braves lone RBI of the game and also pitched a perfect seventh inning.

Superior Central’s Avery Nachtman made an impressive diving catch in the first inning to slow Gladstone’s push out of the gate, but the Cougars committed at least three errors by manager Bill Maki’s estimation.

“Avery made an outstanding catch. It was probably the defensive play of the game,” he said. “It was our first time on the field, at all. We haven’t had any infield practice, no outfield practice, nothing. But, it was basically a good clean game.”

Cody Maki took the loss, going six innings and allowing four hits and two walks while striking out four.

“Cody had a good outing. He had good control,” said Maki.

The nightcap was a different story. Gladstone got a huge early jump and coasted the rest of the way.

The Braves went all the way through their order in the first inning and brought 12 batters to the plate. With a nine-hit barrage, Gladstone led 8-0 after their half of the frame. Justin Jurek, Christian Groleau and Tackman all had RBI doubles. Jurek had two RBI doubles in just one inning.

“We came out with more enthusiasm and the bats came alive,” said Lauscher of his team’s offensive onslaught.

The Braves started LaCosse on the mound, who pitched two innings and didn’t allow a run. He was relieved by Jake Peterson who finished out the game.

“LaCoose did a nice job. He pounded the strike zone and it was nice to have that extra arm,” said Lauscher. “He carried us.”

With the big lead, Gladstone emptied its bench and spread the playing time around. Anthony Forrest had a particularly nice at bat for the Braves, working to a full count and fouling off several balls before coming through with a base hit.

“I always tell guys coming off the bench that they have an opportunity to make plays and Anthony did that,” said Lauscher.

Maki acknowledged there were a few hiccups but was happy to get his team some playing time.

“Gladstone started out hot and we had a couple goof ups,” he said. “We had a good opportunity to get going in the first inning, but their left fielder made a beauty of a throw. They started hitting and they’re a good team.:

The Cougars were without Britton Tyner and Trevor Maki, two key components.

Freshman Ian McInnis pitched the first inning and was charged with the eight runs, but as Maki acknowledged, it was a tough position for him.

“Ian was a little bit rough, but he’s a freshman and a good athlete and he’ll do just fine. That was a long inning for a freshman to start out.

“I’m happy with the team. The kids had a very good outing for their first game.”

Gladstone wraps up its homestand by hosting Marquette on Thursday before playing in the Escanaba Invitational on Saturday.