Near-perfect Marinette shuts down Cubs 4-2

MARINETTE – Marinette Legion needed to play flawless baseball to beat Escanaba Friday night.

That’s exactly what Post 39 did in a 4-2 victory in the first round of the Marinette Firecracker Tournament at Pedersen Ball Park.

No errors, timely hits, gutty pitching and a game-ending circus catch.

“It was a little closer than we’d like, but Escanaba played a great game as well,” Marinette coach Brian Lesandrini said.

Aaron Benson battled through 5 2/3 innings to earn the win. Since suffering a knee injury in early-May, Benson had thrown just 2/3 of an inning before Friday. He threw 110 pitches, allowed just three hits, walked eight and struck out four.

With two exceptions, he couldn’t throw his curveball or changeup for a strike and had to rely on his fastball.

“Oh, it’s tired,” Benson said of his arm. “I got through.”

Derek Klegin played third base at St. Norbert College this spring but hadn’t pitched since last summer. He relieved Benson in the bottom of the sixth inning with the bases loaded, two outs and Marinette clinging to a 3-2 lead. Klegin ended the threat with a strikeout.

Marinette added an insurance run in the seventh when Kiefer Powers drew a two-out walk, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Jake Sawinski’s opposite-field single to right.

Klegin fanned the first two batters in the seventh with a called third strike knuckleball and a fastball. Then, Tyler Skufca lined a base hit to left. Cleanup hitter Nick Vandermissen crushed a gapper, but center fielder Nate Kallestad got a great jump on it and made a spectacular diving backhanded catch.

“That’s big time,” Escanaba coach Tom Ohman said. “That’s Major League right there.”

Benson appreciated Marinette’s good defense, including a couple of gems by Klegin at shortstop. He especially enjoyed Kallestad’s play.

“That was amazing,” Benson said. “Just a great center fielder. Always makes those plays.”

Devin Olsen pitched the first three innings for the Cubs. His elbow felt tight, so he was relieved by Andrew Sedlar. Skufca pitched the seventh.

The Cubs (4-4) were missing four starters due to camps and Country USA.

“I’m very happy with the way we played because we had people out of position,” Ohman said.

Marinette (6-6) took the lead in the second when Benson lined a leadoff single to left, Sawinski singled and Alex Stodola blooped an RBI single over the second base bag.

Klegin drew a leadoff walk in the third. Bailey Brix then placed a perfect bunt single, and when the throw sailed past first, Klegin scored all the way from first.

In the fourth, Austin Wright hit a leadoff double and scored when Klegin’s base hit to left was misplayed.

Escanaba scored its runs in the fourth. Lewis Ostrander lined a leadoff single to left, Skufcaand Jake Rodman walke, and Ostrander scored on a wild pitch. Devin Olsen roped an RBI single to left.

Marinette will play host to Marquette today at 12:30 p.m., while the Cubs will play Watertown at 5:30 p.m.

WP – Aaron Benson 5 2/3 IP, 2R, 2ER, 3H, 8W, 4K

LP – Devin Olsen 3 IP, 2R, 1ER, 4H, 3W, 1K

Leading hitters (Marinette): Alex Stodola & Jake Sawinski 2×4, RBI; Austin Wright 1×2, 2B; Derek Klegin & Benson 1×3; (Escanaba): Tyler Skufca 1×2; Nick Vandermissen 1×3, 2B; Devin Olsen 1×3, RBI

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