Gladstone stunned by monster rally

IRON MOUNTAIN – During the past few days, Gladstone’s all-stars did their best to avoid Iron Mountain North’s best bats.

Marcus Johnson decided to make them pay.

Johnson, after an intentional walk to Foster Wonder to load the bases, blasted a two-out grand slam to deep right center field, as the North all-stars rallied late from a six-run deficit for a wild 11-9 victory to claim the Little League major District 10 title Monday at Larry Barkle Eastside Field.

Iron Mountain now heads to Muskegon for state tournament play, beginning Friday.

North trailed 9-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth.

The inning began with an intentional pass to CJ Bolo, and things unraveled from there for Gladstone.

Three more walks, of the non-intentional variety, and a throwing error helped start the scoring for IM North. Sonny Tolenen made it 9-6 with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in left. Then came the free pass to Wonders with first base open. Wonders was intentionally passed in all but his very first at-bat in the tournament when he homered.

Johnson came up next and connected on a two-strike count, sending the pitch several feet beyond the right center fence to put North ahead 10-9.

And for good measure, Bolo returned to the plate next and cracked a no-doubter to dead center for his second long ball of the district round.

Johnson then shut down Gladstone’s hot bats in the sixth, working around a one-out walk to seal the improbable victory for North.

Gladstone looked well on its way to Muskegon after scoring five runs in the top of the fifth.

Peyton Fedell singled in a run, another run scored off a bases-loaded walk, and then Zach Hanson ripped a single that got past IM North’s right fielder and rolled to the fence to allow three more runs to score. A nice diving catch of a sinking line drive by Bolo in center field stopped the inning.

A RBI single by Ean Terrien gave Gladstone the game’s first lead in the second. But Iron Mountain answered with three in the bottom half when Caleb Evosevich dropped a bunt down the first base line with two runners on. Evosevich reached without a throw. Then a series of bad throws kept the IM runners on the move, and by the time the play was over, the bases were clear.

Gladstone rebounded in the third when Justin Malmsteed went deep to left for a three-run homer, the 4-3 score looking good until the fifth inning.

Nick Opolka took the start for Iron Mountain and lasted into the fifth before reaching his pitch limit. He allowed seven hits while striking out two and walking five. Johnson gave up the single to Hanson in the fifth and nothing else, fanning one and walking one.

Malmsteed started for Gladstone, lasting four full innings before hitting his 85-pitch limit. He surrendered just two hits while striking out six and walking five. Drake Forrest and Caden Alworden worked the final two frames.

Monday’s game was the third of the tournament between Gladstone and IM. North sent Gladstone to the elimination bracket with an 8-3 win on Friday. Gladstone got even Sunday night, ripping IM 10-0.