American Legion All-Star game: Pearson, South clip North 10-6
ISHPEMING – The big boys from the Major Leagues had their all-star baseball game later on Tuesday night.
Before that, younger high school students and recent graduates from around the Upper Peninsula got together in Ishpeming for their own all-star game before the sun went down.
Six American Legion teams from the Mid-Peninsula League sent representatives here as the South prevailed, 10-6, in a scheduled nine-inning game.
With 12 players on each side – all getting a spot in the expanded batting order – 17 of them collected at least one hit against a total of eight pitchers.
The most exciting hit came off the bat of South most valuable player Jake Pearson of Gladstone, who just cleared the leftfield fence in the top of the ninth inning for a two-run homer to score the final runs of the game.
It short-circuited a comeback by the North, which fell behind 7-0 in the middle of the fifth inning before cutting the deficit to just one run by the end of the seventh.
“It’s like any game, you can take a look at a few plays that make a difference,” said Marquette Blues manager Derek Swajanen, who coached the North. “It was good to see our boys fight back and make a game of it the final few innings.”
He agreed that the main thing in this exhibition is to honor the league’s best players.
“It’s a good recognition for the year after playing a lot of games,” Swajanen said. “A lot of guys were playing out of position, or taking a position they wanted to play.”
On his team, he singled out Ishpeming’s Josh Richards for catching eight of his team’s nine innings in high humidity and heat that approached 90 degrees.
Pearson was among 10 South batters with a single hit, but his hit was the biggest of the night when it went over the fence.
“I could feel it as soon as I hit it,” Pearson said after earlier walking, bouncing out to shortstop and hitting a fly out to centerfield.
The second-year Legion player, who will be a senior at Rapid River High School this fall, said this was his third homer of the summer.
“The biggest thing is getting good placement on your bat,” the first-time league all-star said about the secret to knocking one out of the park.
The Marquette Blues’ Ryan Walther earned MVP honors for the North after collecting two hits, scoring a run and pitching two hitless innings during his team’s comeback.
“I played in the all-star game two years ago when I was with the (Marquette) Reds,” said the June graduate of Munising High School who primarily plays centerfield.
“My big thing is I try to cover my whole part of the outfield and get to every ball that I’m supposed to.”
Despite graduating from high school, Walther said he has another year of Legion baseball eligibility left and would like to play again next summer.
“I’m going to Central (Michigan University) and I want to try to play for them. I’d be a walk-on.”
He said he played Little League through the 13-year-old Juniors division, then took two years off before restarting in the sport.
“I heard about it from one of my friends in Marquette, and I got to play for the Reds for a year. This is my second year with the Blues.”
Walther was joined by Blues teammate Ryan Hanson and Hancock’s Mike Saari with two hits apiece. Hanson started on the mound and was rocked for six runs in the first two innings on four hits and four walks.
The first five South batters reached base in the second inning, including Kenny Pekarek of Channing, who knocked in two runs by lacing a double to down the leftfield line.
After South starting pitcher Cody Berg of Channing threw four shutout innings, the North began its comeback in the fifth with three runs on three hits and three South errors.
Trailing by four runs going to the bottom of the ninth, North speedster Drew Corkin of Ishpeming led off by reaching on a throwing error, then Tyler LaDuron of Hancock was plunked in the side with a pitch by South closer Aidan Weinke of Kingsford.
But Weinke kept his composure, inducing a force-out at second base, then his team’s second ground-out double play to end the game.
While the Marquette Blues will play in a tournament featuring some of Wisconsin’s best teams this weekend in Plover, Wis., all six teams involved in Tuesday’s all-star game will be part of the nine-team Zone 5 tournament to be held in Menominee starting next Wednesday.
Currently, three teams are set to advance to state finals out of the Zone.