Cubs blast Gladwin to reach Legion title game

GLADWIN – It was quite the tournament run for the Escanaba Cubs over the weekend in Gladwin.

After dropping the first game of the tournament to Petoskey, the Cubs had their work cut out, having to win three straight games in the elimination bracket to get to the title game.

They did just that, culminating in a 5-1 victory over the host Gladwin Lightning, Saturday at Wilmot Field.

The Cubs unleashed their full hitting potential in a furious first inning.

Dave Falish led off with a single and Nick Vandermissen absolutely crushed a ball 320 feet to deep left for a two-run homer to kick things off. Tyler Skufca and Bailey Lamb each singled and Hunter LaMarch and Devin Olsen each followed with RBI singles to give Esky a 4-0 lead. The Cubs batted around the order in the first inning and the game was essentially out of reach at that point.

Though the Cubs would only get three hits the rest of the way, it made little difference due to Justin Popelka’s effort on the mound. One of the youngest members of the team, Popelka pitched a complete-game three-hitter, striking out five and walking three.

Gladwin’s lone run came on a throwing error in the fourth without the benefit of a hit. Drew Cantrell was issued a walk and a pair of ground balls allowed him to advance to third. He scored when the Gladstone defense attempted to throw out Andrew Redman on a steal attempt, and missed the mark, allowing Cantrell to reach home without a throw.

Esky added an insurance run in the sixth. Vandermissen collected his third RBI of the game on a base single that scored Falish from second base.

Though Escanaba took care of business and seemingly had momentum on their side, the Cubs simply ran out of gas in the final. After five games, they were thin on pitching and tired after already playing in the hot and muggy conditions Saturday.

“They’re a good group of kids, but they’re tired,” said Escanaba manager Tom Ohman. “It’s a muggy day and this is our second game today and fifth of the tournament.”

The Cubs were left to start Brandon Punzel, who had thrown 70 pitches on Friday. He was later relieved by Lewis Ostrander.

“We got as much out of Brandon as we could,” said Ohman.

Gladstone’s fresh arms prevailed, with Hunter Garling tossing a two-hitter, not to Christian Tackman’s surprise.

“Our pitching was perfect, he said. “The guys pulled through, they worked hard, and honest to God, we still had more pitching to go. We were pretty stacked.”