Legion baseball: Stingy Indians stifle Cubs

ESCANABA – Getting timely hits has been a struggle for Escanaba and Gladstone through much of this American Legion baseball season.

Gladstone, however, found a way to generate just enough offense Tuesday night to earn a 3-0 triumph over the Cubs at Al Ness Field.

The Indians (13-10) led 1-0 after four innings, but gained a little breathing room by scoring twice in the fifth.

Justin Jurek scored Gladstone’s second run on Hayden Hardwick’s ground out to third and Christian Tackman finished the scoring on a wild pitch.

“That was huge,” said Gladstone manager Jim Groleau. “Anytime you’re in a one-run game, there’s pressure on the kids to make plays. Once you get up by 3-4 runs, the kids can relax a little.”

Jurek also scored on a wild pitch in the third for the Indians, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Esky’s best scoring opportunity came in the first when Dane Messersmith, Ben Kleiman and Brandon Punzel cracked consecutive singles with one out. Jurek, however, retired the next two Cubs’ hitters to end the threat.

“It would have been nice to score a couple runs to get momentum and a lead for once,” said Esky manager Tom Ohman. “We didn’t swing the bat as well as we did over the weekend. Although, much of the credit has to go to their pitchers. They did a nice job moving the ball around.”

The Indians stranded nine baserunners in the contest and Esky left seven, all in the first four innings. All of Esky’s hits came in the first two frames.

“We’re playing rock solid defense, but need to execute better on offense,” said Groleau. “Tonight, we put the ball in play just enough.”

Jurek, who took the win, struck out six, walked two and allowed four hits through four innings. Christian Groleau then retired the Cubs in order in the next three frames and got the save.

“We had a 70-pitch limit on Justin,” said manager Groleau. “We were only going to throw him three innings. His pitch count was up around 60 after three, but he lobbied for an extra inning. He threw the ball well. Christian also pitched well and the kids made the plays behind him.”

Andrew Miller, who made his first start as a Cubs’ pitcher, absorbed the loss. He walked four, hit a batter and gave up three runs on three hits through four innings. Andrew Sedlar relieved in the fifth and fanned two, walked one, hit a batter and gave up a hit.

“It was nice for Andrew to get some innings,” said Ohman. “He and Sedlar did a nice job. This is the first time Miller had thrown since last year. I’m sure he got a little tired.”

There were three errors in the contest, including a pair by the Cubs.

Gladstone resumes tonight at 6, hosting Newberry in a doubleheader.

The Cubs, who have now dropped three straight, are entered in this weekend’s Marinette Firecracker tournament, facing the host team Friday at 8 p.m. (EDT).