Legion Zone: Indians rout Cubs for title

MENOMINEE – The Gladstone Indians started the season with junior high school players filling out their roster while the high school team wrapped up their season.

Sunday afternoon the Indians hoisted the U.P. American Legion championship trophy in the rain at Spies Field in Menominee.

“It was a learning curve for our young kids but they put a lot of hard work into it,” Indians coach Jim Groleau said. “The kids played well all week. I knew our pitching was good enough to win the tournament.”

Gladstone (28-18-1) went undefeated in the nine-team tournament while allowing just eight runs in its three victories.

After hammering Hancock 10-0 in the winners’ bracket game Saturday afternoon, the Indians opened up a 15-0 lead in the second inning against Escanaba Sunday, before the umpires ruled the field was unplayable.

Hayden Hardwick and Hunter Garling each rapped out a pair of singles in the first-inning hit parade against the Cubs, Cody Frazer drilled a double and Jake Peterson added a single.

“Hitting has been our bugaboo all season,” Groleau said. “We knew if we hit the ball we could win the tournament.”

Peterson belted a leadoff double in the second inning and Christian Groleau and Hunter Garling poked RBI singles in the second inning before the umpires halted the game.

“It feels pretty good to say we’re No. 1 in the U.P.,” Hardwick said. “We know we can play with anyone in the state.”

The Cubs, playing their fourth game in two days and their seventh game in the tournament, had no pitching left.

Gladstone also came out swinging in the first inning to deliver a knockout blow to Hancock Saturday afternoon.

Pearson lined a two-run single, Groleau and Christian Tackman smacked RBI singles and Lucas LaCosse had a sacrifice fly to spike the Indians to a 5-0 lead.

Pearson crushed a two-run double in the second inning and he capped his six-RBI binge at the plate with a two-run single in a three-run sixth inning.

Garling blanked Hancock on three hits.

The Indians will open state tournament play Thursday at Adrian College.

The Cubs earned the second-place trophy with its 5-2 win over Hancock Saturday afternoon.

Escanaba beggan the long triple-header day with a 7-5 victory over Marquette. The Cubs, who played 19 innings of baseball during the three games, later beat Hancock 5-2 before securing a state tournament berth with a 4-1 victory over defending state champion Kingsford.

The triple-header victories were a first for coach Tom Ohman, who has led the Cubs for more than 25 years.

“Unbelievable!,” Ohman exclaimed after the win over Kingsford. “I knew we were a longshot, but I knew we had played some good games. I thought if we could stick with it, maybe we would see some sunshine this weekend.”

Kingsford held a 1-0 lead through four innings despite being no-hit by Tyler Skufca.

Austin Murdoch reached on a dropped third strike to open the fourth inning, took second on a wild pitch and scored on an infield error.

Escanaba capitalized on walks and a huge hit from Ben Kleiman to break through for three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Sean Bissell drew a walk to open the inning and Tim Luenburg moved him over with a bunt. An infield error and walk to David Falish loaded the bases for Kleiman, who hooked a two-run double down the left-field line. Brandon Punzel followed with an RBI sac fly.

The Cubs tacked on their fourth run in the sixth on a leadoff single by Skufca, a throwing error, a single by Andrew Sedlar and Nick Vandermissen’s sac fly to right.

Sedlar came on in relief in the fourth inning and held the Blues to one hit to earn the win.

“Sedlar has been fantastic,” Ohman said.

The Cubs hiked their record to 13-16 with their five tournament wins.

“I’m very proud of the kids to come from where we were to where we are now,” Ohman said.

Hancock (16-16) also earned a berth in the state tournament with its third-place finish.

Gladstone will play Hancock Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in its state tournament opener at Adrian College while Escanaba plays the winner of the 11 a.m. Ida vs. Gladwin game at 4 p.m. The Gladstone-Hancock winner plays Hudson at 6:30 p.m.