Braves take two from Norway, remain perfect at home

GLADSTONE – The Norway Knights had opportunities. Plenty of baserunners, a no-outs bases loaded chance. The Gladstone Braves shut them down at every turn, securing a baseball doubleheader sweep Monday evening 4-3, 7-1.

With the victories, Gladstone (10-3) is now a perfect 9-0 at Don Olsen Field.

In a topsy-turvy opener, the Braves held a 3-0 lead and carried that into the sixth inning where Norway erased it in a hurry. John Grayvold Jr. led off with a double and Mike Foull batted him home with a single. A couple batters later, Jake Rohn ripped a 2-run double and the score was tied.

In the top of the seventh, Norway loaded the bases with no outs after Christian Tackman walked two consecutive batters. The Braves got out of the jam though when Tackman struck out the next batter. Faull then grounded into a double play to end the side.

After the Knights (2-3-1) went 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth, Tackman fired a 1-out double before advancing to third on a passed ball. Then the unthinkable happened. Foull, the Norway pitcher, balked, effectively ending the game as Tackman advanced to home.

“We had two young kids. A young pitcher and a young catcher, and there was some miscommunication,” said Norway manager Tony Adams of the game-ending play. “I told them, you pitched well enough to win the game for us and offensively the game should have been over. You hate to lose that way, but it was a very well-played game and we’ll learn from it.”

John Grayvold Jr. started the game on the mound for Norway and struck out 10 before being relieved to start the seventh inning.

In the second game, the Knights got on the board early. Austin Grayvold was walked and John Grayvold followed with a double before Dan Vivio sac-grounded the runner home for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

The Braves answered with a four-run second inning. Tom Bailey was hit by a pitch and Blake Ballard and Christian Groleau ripped singles to load the bases with no outs. James Capodilupo followed with a two-run base hit. Luke LaCosse then sent two more runs home with another single.

Gladstone preserved a 4-1 lead and added to it in the fourth. In the top of the inning, Bailey made a nice catch on a pop fly well in foul territory, running to the edge of the fence near the Braves dugout to secure the out. In the bottom of the inning LaCosse and Tackman each had RBI singles and the lead was 6-1.

Norway had another based loaded, no outs opportunity in the fifth, by virtue of two walks and a hit, but John Grayvold flied out and Vivio grounded into a double play.

“That’s focus,” said Adams. “You need a hit, just like in the first game. Bases loaded, no outs, then you get a strikeout or hit it right at somebody. That’s the kind of funk we’re in. I think we’re playing well enough defensively and pitching wise to win some games, but offensively we’re not doing enough damage.”

The Braves tacked on one more run in the fifth when Jake Peterson sac-bunted Blake Ballard home.

Gladstone ended the game in the top of the seventh when Hunter Garling made a nice diving catch in left centerfield on a fly ball.

Christian Tackman went 5.1 innings for the Braves, and while he was inconsistent, walking eight batters, he was also clutch, as the left-handed pitcher picked off two batters at first base and always came up big to get out of a jam, striking out five and allowing three hits.

“Christian wasn’t on his A-game today for sure. He struggled and walked a few and got behind most of the hitters, but he made the pitches when he needed to,” said Braves manager Don Lauscher. “That pickoff move he has, he works on it pretty hard and does a really good job with that and it got us out of a couple jams.”

LaCosse went 3-4 with 3 RBIs for Gladstone and Groleau was 2-2. Ballard went 2-2 and reached base on a fielders choice. The Braves had 11 hits in the nightcap but Lauscher is looking for more from the top of his order.

“Our defense is playing good, our pitching for the most part has been pretty good, but we really have to work on our hitting,” he said. “It seems funny. The top (of the order) who we really need to hit, aren’t hitting, but that’s what we have to get going on in practice. We’ll work hard.”

Gladstone plays at Escanaba Thursday.