Blues blast banged-up Gladstone

GLADSTONE – Marquette overcame an early deficit, took advantage of a couple key errors and got an excellent effort on the mound as the Legion Blues held on for an 8-4 victory over Gladstone Sunday afternoon.

“We put up 12 hits, took advantage of some errors, hit the ball hard and put a lot of baserunners on,” said Blues manager Derek Swajanen.”

It wasn’t Gladstone’s day in the finale of the Gregg Johnson Memorial Tournament. The Indians were let down by untimely errors and injuries and soreness to usual starters.

It began when scheduled starters Hunter Garling and Jake Peterson were each unavailable to pitch just before game time due to soreness. So manager Jim Groleau had to put Rapid River standout Jake Pearson on the mound. Pearson hadn’t thrown since last August and had only one practice under his belt. For the first three innings he held his own, but things began to break down in the fourth.

The Indians had a 2-1 lead when the Blues loaded the bases without a hit. Pearson hit two batters and walked a third. He then walked in the tying run. That ended his day, after he gave up four hits, two walks and two hit batters while striking out four.

“We’re actually more banged up than I thought we were,” said Groleau. “We were expecting to have Hunter Garling and Jake Peterson ready to go, but then all of a sudden when it was time to go, they couldn’t. It ended up falling to Jake and he’s only had the one day of practice so he was going to be on a limited pitch count anyway. We wanted to get him through four innings, but it didn’t happen.”

Eighth grader Logan Heim came on in relief and the Blues got wide-eyed. They hit Heim hard, taking the lead right away on a sac-grounder from Derek Stone, scoring Trevor Bratonic. Marquette then exploded in the fifth, batting around as they had five consecutive hits. Ryan Hanson, McKinley Larson and Levi Underwood loaded the bases on singles and Sam Leow ripped a single that turned into a two run play on a Gladstone error. Bratonic then followed with a two-run blast that appeared to bounce off a glove or the fence in right centerfield.

Marquette had a commanding 7-2 lead and was well in business with Riley Lynch on the mound. He allowed five hits, four walks and two hit batters while striking out seven.

“Riley did a great job, he’s had a couple really solid outings this year, I was really happy with him,” said Swajanen.

Only one of the runs the Blues gave up was earned.

In the first Justin Jurek got a one out single, later with two outs and runners at first and second, Pearson hit a weak grounder in the infielder, but the throw was way off, allowing Jurek and Hayden Hardwick to score. Gladstone’s 2-0 lead held up for two innings and at that point, Swajanen was thinking ‘here we go again.’

“We usually don’t have very good luck down here and when we threw the ball away, I said oh, that’s typical Gladstone luck,” he said. “But luck is what you make it. Usually they take advantage of mistakes that we make and I was glad that today we took advantage of a few mistakes and put those extra couple runs on. I was happy we didn’t give up after giving up those two unearned right away.”

Gladstone got its third and fourth runs in the fifth inning. Jurek was walked with one out and Pearson batted him home. Later, with two outs and two on, an attempted throw to first base to try and force out Pearson, appeared to bounce off Pearson and over the fence. Pearson advanced to second and Hayden Hardwick was allowed to score from third, much to Swajanen’s confusion.

“They (the umpire) said you get the bag you’re going to and then the next base. I disagree with the way it happened, because obviously if that was the case, the kid at first would have gone to third base, so I don’t know if they attributed the rule halfway,” Swajanen said. “I didn’t want to get into it at the time and make that the focal point, make that the point of the game when we’re up 8-3 and all of a sudden we lose focus on what happens, it’s counterproductive. So I said, forget about it, is what it is. It’s not going to change their minds any. We moved on from there and the kids did a great job regrouping.”

The Blues tacked on one more insurance run in the seventh on another Gladstone error that allowed Leow to score.

The victory wrapped up a solid weekend for the Blues after they beat Soo Canada 10-4 and lost to a loaded Midland Berryhill team 8-0 on Saturday.

“Midland nickeled and dimed us and we were down 5-0 after two innings after giving up five walks and a hit batter. We didn’t execute the small ball and lost 8-0 but against a good team like that, I couldn’t complain too much,” said Swajanen. “We came back and had much better momentum against Soo Canada and did a great job there. Then, coming into this game, we said it was a good game to gage where we’re at. I’m really happy with the way the boys played.”

Gladstone (2-2) fell to Midland 5-0 and beat Soo Canada 11-3 on Saturday

“Against Berryhill, we left eight runners on base. We had chances, we just didn’t get the big hit when we needed it, kind of like today,” said Groleau. He also noted that given time, the Indians will start to gel.

“We’re going to take some lumps early on until we get healthy. That’s the No. 1 goal right now is health,” said Groleau. “And with Marquette, continuity is a big thing. Most of the guys here have played together on the high school team, but now you’re throwing in five other players and they have to build that chemistry again. Baseball is like any other sport, it’s a team sport. Once you have the chemistry built up, you have your foundation.

“We’re putting the bat on the ball but we expect more. We expect to be one of the better hitting teams and we didn’t hit as well as we should have this weekend, but it’s early and we’ll get there.”