Hardwick lifts Indians in ninth inning

MENOMINEE – The Gladstone Indians pushed their backs off the wall Thursday night and started making plans for a trip to Adrian College.

Hayden Hardwick crushed an RBI double to the fence in left field in the ninth inning to lift Gladstone to a 5-4 win over Menominee in the U.P. Zone Tournament.

Gladstone (22-14) clinched a trip to the Class A state American Legion tournament with their second straight harrowing win.

The Indians rallied from a 4-1 deficit to pull out the win on Menominee’s home field.

“We persevered,” exclaimed Gladstone coach Jim Groleau. “The kids responded. They’re a great group of kids and they deserve this.”

Trailing 4-3 in the seventh inning, Gladstone was down to its last out when Cody Frazer bashed his third hit of the game, an RBI double that dropped between two Menominee outfielders, to score James Capadilupo with the tying run. Capadilupo opened the inning with a pinch-hit single and took second on Justin Jurek’s sacrifice.

Jurek lit the fuse for the Indians’ winning rally with a leadoff single. R.J. Woods forced a pair of fly balls before Hardwick crushed his game-winner.

The gritty relief pitching of Christian Groleau kept the Indians in the game after the Wave fired up the hometown crowd with three runs in the fourth inning.

Groleau allowed just two hits while slamming the door on two serious scoring threats to earn the win.

“My arm was kind of sore, so I knew I wasn’t going to be overpowering,” Groleau explained. “I let the defense do the work. We punched our ticket to Adrian. That was the big job for today and we got the job done.”

Menominee was 90 feet away from building a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh inning. Landen Maccoux reached on an error and advanced to third with one out. Chris Kelley drew a walk and swiped second to put two runners in scoring position with one out.

The Indians trapped Maccoux in a rundown for the second out and Hardwick made a diving stab of Mason Kewley’s liner to first to end the threat.

The Red Wave were banging on the door again in the ninth when Woods reached on an error. Derek Reiswitz dropped down a sac bunt and Maccoux drew an intentional walk. The Indians’ defense came through again with a force out at third and Justin Jurek gloved Jaden Kleinke’s liner to short to bury Menominee’s final scoring chance.

“We haven’t had a lot of runners in scoring position, but tonight we did,” Red Wave coach Tony Hofer said. “We need to score those runs. We could have scored a couple of more runs. We made some mental errors tonight and it cost us.”

Kelley ignited Menominee’s third-inning uprising with a walk. Kleinke ripped a single to center and Mason Kewley mashed an RBI single to break a scoreless deadlock. Riley Hegg came through with a two-out, two-run single to spike the lead to 3-0.

The Indians got a run in the bottom of the fourth when Frazer reached on an error and Hardwick previewed his game-winning shot with an RBI double.

A defensive gem by Kewley at second base wiped out a Gladstone run in the inning. Christian Tackman’s grounder spun through the legs of the Red Wave first baseman. With Hardwick hustling toward home plate, Kewley hustled to the ball and flipped to first for the out, preserving the Wave’s two-run lead.

Menominee pushed its lead to 4-1 in the top of the sixth when Mark Pulver raced to first on a bunt and then sprinted to third on an errant pick-off throw. Ryne Francour rifled a two-out single down third-base line to score Pulver.

Woods checked Gladstone on two hits before the Indians rapped out three singles in the sixth inning to cut the margin to 4-3. Frazer and Hardwick set the stage with back-to-back singles and Hunter Garling laced an RBI single to center. Tackman’s sac fly drove in Hardwick.

“We didn’t come out with good intensity the first four innings,” coach Groleau said. “Once we got our backs to the wall, the kids decided to play baseball and started hitting the ball.”

Frazer and Hardwick each had three hits to pace Gladstone’s 10-hit attack.

Woods struck out four and walked two while going the distance for Menominee.

“He’s the one of the hardest competitors we have on this team,” Hofer said.

Kleinke’s two hits led Menominee.

Hancock also advanced to the state tournament with a 5-1 win over Marquette.

The winner of today’s Kingsford-Menominee game will play either Escanaba or Marquette today at 4 p.m. on the Red Lacousiere diamond.