Groleau’s hot bat powers Braves as Gladstone edges Negaunee

GLADSTONE – Christian Groleau came a home run away from hitting for the cycle and helped lift the Gladstone Braves to a 6-4 baseball victory over Negaunee on a very chilly Tuesday evening at Don Olsen Field.

Groleau’s bases clearing triple in the bottom of the fifth, his third hit of the game, scored two runs to give Gladstone a 5-4 lead as the Braves overcame a couple miscues and cashed in on their opportunities late.

“Christian did a great job at the plate. He struggled a little downstate. He was out on his front foot, a little bit ahead of the ball,” said Braves assistant coach Kurt Lauscher. “He actually made an adjustment in practice and he hit the ball tonight, it was big for us.”

Groleau’s torrid bat came at the right time as hitting didn’t come easy for the Braves, Tuesday with high winds and temperatures that hovered in the mid 40s.

“The ball definitely didn’t bounce well, I squared up a couple and they still didn’t go anywhere,” Groleau said. “Everybody had that problem. Rizzo (Jake Peterson) was telling me he squared one up and he said it just didn’t go anywhere. it’s like hitting a rock, it’s frozen. It’s hard to keep your hands warm because its so cold, but you do what you can.”

Negaunee, taking the field for the first time this season, started out hot. Chad Larson hit a single and Tyler Jandron followed with a walk before Cole Francis ripped a three-run homer to left field.

With Jandron, among the best pitchers in the state, on the mound, it could have been all the scoring the Miners needed. The Miners’ ace went four innings, allowing four hits and one run while walking one and striking out six.

“He looked good, but he can even throw a lot better than he did today,” said Negaunee manager Mark Bell. “We had that nice home run from Francis. That could have been all the runs we needed. We still have a lot of things to clean up and a lot of rust to shake off.

“Our kids just aren’t used to being on a full size field, they aren’t used to throwing that length of the bases. We’ve been trapped inside the ice arena for practices.”

The Braves had opportunities against Jandron. Several times they had runners in scoring position with one out but Jandron got out of each jam with strikeouts.

But the fifth inning was a different story. Luke Hill came out to relieve Jandron and to not much fault of his own, the Miners folded.

Peterson got on base via an error and ran to second on a passed ball; Garling walked, Bailey followed with a base on error. Hill then walked Justin Jurek to score Peterson, and another passed ball allowed Garling to score.

Later, with two outs, Groleau fired off his triple as Gladstone took the lead. Freshman Ben Schwalbach then added an insurance run, knocking in Groleau with a single.

“It’s always good when you’re getting the guys in, just put the ball in play and make something happen,” said Lauscher. “We weren’t doing that in the beginning and we started to do that toward the end, taking a few pitches, working the count a little bit. I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Bell said the flurry of errors weren’t typical of his team, and chalked up the miscues to rust.

“We’re confident we have a good team and we’re going to have a good year,” he said. “Tonight was just a cold night. Gladstone came in having just played four games last week, so it’s understandable that they have it going more than us. They have a nice team.”

Christian Tackman earned the victory for the Braves and recovered nicely after his choppy start. He went five innings and struck out four, walked three and allowed three earned runs.

“CT did a great job. He was hitting his spots very well,” said Lauscher. “They hit one ball off him pretty good, which ended up being a home run, but he battled back and got a lot of first pitch outs, which helped him a lot. I’m very happy with him.”

Gladstone (4-1) is set to take on Norway today at 4:30 p.m. in a game that was moved from Thursday due to rainy forecast. The Braves also added a game against Rudyard, Friday evening before facing the Bulldogs again in a doubleheader on Saturday.