Prep baseball: Alpena dodges Esky for tourney title

ESCANABA – There were plenty of scoring chances for the Escanaba Eskymos in Saturday’s championship game of the Bink’s Coca-Cola Invitational Baseball tournament.

Converting on those, however, became a problem as the Eskymos dropped a 4-3 decision to the Alpena Wildcats.

Esky stranded 11 baserunners, including eight in scoring position. Alpena left three on the basepaths.

“They took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of ours,” said Esky manager Kirk Schwalbach. “Although, our guys didn’t quit. Alpena is a real good team, and I think they made us a better team.”

Alpena (18-3), which split a pair of one-run games with Esky Friday night, scored the game-winner in the sixth inning on Saturday. The Wildcats snapped a 3-3 deadlock on Guilio Fantasia’s sacrifice fly to centerfield.

Esky (13-4) threatened in the final two frames, stranding a pair of runners in the sixth and leaving Jake Rodman on third base in the seventh.

Bailey Lamb led off the seventh by reaching on an error. Rodman, then inserted as a pinch runner, raced to third on Hunter LaMarch’s sacrifice bunt.

Atkinson, pitching in relief of Andy Marwede, then retired the next two hitters to preserve the victory.

Esky’s threat in the sixth ended when Glennie made an over-the-head grab on Punzel’s flyball to center.

“That was a great play,” said Schwalbach. “Overall, I thought we hit the ball well. It’s just that we hit right at people in key situations. We made a few mistakes and they cost us.”

Alpena scored three times on four hits off Ben Kleiman in the opening frame.

Tim Atkinson’s double to left opening the scoring. Fantasia’s double to right gave the Wildcats a two-run cushion and Dylan Glennie’s single to left made it 3-0.

Esky got on the board in the third on Brandon Punzel’s single into center.

Kleiman’s single to left pulled the Eskymos within 3-2 in the fourth, shortly before Tim Lueneburg tied the score on a fielder’s choice.

“It seems like we sometimes go into a slumber after we jump on a team early,” said Alpena manager Phil Schultz. “Although, both teams made some real nice plays. Our guys just gutted this one out.”

Esky had a chance to take the lead in the fifth. Lamb led off with a double to left and reached third on a fielder’s choice. Lueneburg then reached base on a fielder’s choice. But Lamb then got caught in a pickle and was called out while trying to score. Meanwhile, Lueneburg advanced to second.

Kleiman allowed just one hit after the first inning. He finished with two strikeouts, walked none and hit a batter.

“Ben struggled a little early, but gained confidence in his pitching and did a pretty nice job after the first inning,” said Schwalbach.

Esky finished with nine hits, including two each by Sean Bissell, Nick Vandermissen and Punzel. Atkinson had two of Alpena’s five hits.

Marwede, who pitched six innings, took the win. He fanned two, walked one, hit a batter and surrendered three runs on nine hits.

“I thought both pitchers did a nice job,” said Schultz. “We enjoy playing Escanaba. We’ve always been real competitive with them. This is a fun group to coach. Our kids are very supportive of each other.”

In an earlier game, Tyler Scufka and Jeff Lyle combined on a no-hitter as the Eskymos blanked the Gladstone Indians 5-0. Scufka struck out five and walked five through 5 1/3 innings. Lyle fanned two in relief.

Logan Lamb had two hits and drove in two runs for Esky, which travels to Shawano, Wis. for a doubleheader Tuesday.

Cody Frazier, who absorbed the loss, whiffed one, walked four, hit a batter and allowed six hits though six frames.

“Esky played great defense,” said Indians’ manager Andy Schwartz. “Our kids also played great defense. I thought Cody did an outstanding job for not pitching for about six years.”

The Indians bounced back with a vengeance in their nightcap, ripping Negaunee 14-3 in six innings.

Hayden Hardwick led Gladstone with three hits, including an RBI single to left to ignite an eight-run outburst in the sixth. Pearson, Braden Lamberg and Josh Parrett had two hits apiece.

“We hit better in the second game,” said Schwartz. “I thought we also hit the ball good in the first game, but we hit at people. Their (Esky’s) pitchers had us a little off balance.”

Lamberg worked 4 1/3 innings for the win. He struck out four, walked three and scattered five hits. Pearson, who relieved in the fifth, was credited with the save.

Eric Wideman had two hits for Negaunee (12-8) and Zane Radloff clubbed a two-run double to left in the sixth.

In the opener, Colbe Meyers tossed a three-hitter as Alpena beat Negaunee 5-0. Mitch Skiba had two hits for the Wildcats.