DeHaan, Kleiman Lead Eskymos To Tourney Sweep
ESCANABA---When their hitting isn't so good, and their defense is a bit shaky, the Escanaba High School baseball team is usually able to count on its pitching to stay alive in their games. And on Saturday, that was the case as the Eskymos hosted the Lions Club Invitational at Al Ness Field.
Alex DeHaan tossed a five-hitter as the Eskymos slipped past Negaunee, 3-2, in the tournament semifinal game. And then Ben Kleiman had a two-hitter in the championship game as the Eskymos beat an improved Marquette Redman team, 7-1.
Alex DeHaan was in control, pitching a five-hitter in a complete game victory.
"Alex struggled with some of his pitches, but when he gets that change-up going, I don't know if anyone can hit him," Eskymo Head Coach Kirk Schwalbach said. "And Ben, well, his curveball was so good that at one point, that's all I called. Curveballs."
In the day's first game, the Eskymos were trying to make up for a disappointing loss the night before in DePere (see that story below). But they were facing a tough challenge in Negaunee sophomore Tyler Jandron, who was difficult for the Eskymos to hit during the first meeting between the teams last week.
And Jandron was even better this time around.
Jandron allowed just three base hits in a complete-game effort, striking out 13 Eskymos along the way.
All of them were swinging strikeouts, by the way, and Kleiman was the only Eskymo batter not to strike out at least once against Jandron. At one point, the Negaunee southpaw struck out six straight Eskymo batters, and ten of the first 12 outs were strikeouts.
Negaunee's Tyler Jandron had 13 K's.
"He just has tremendous motion on everything he throws," DeHaan said about Jandron. "He has a slow bender that comes in whenever he wants to throw it for a strike. And when we're trying to swing at the ball when it's 0-2 or 1-2, he always has a bender to the outside of the plate for righties and inside for lefties.
"He was doing really well."
Negaunee took the lead in the second inning when Zak Makela walked and eventually scored on two wild pitches.
But Escanaba came back in the third inning as Jeff Lyle got a one-out single, went to second on a passed ball, and scored on a single by Austin Young. Young stole second and third base, then Kleiman walked and stole second.
That speed led to the go-ahead run when Jandron kept throwing to third base, and one of them got away, allowing Young to score from third, giving his team a 2-1 lead.
Negaunee (5-2) got the tying run in the fifth inning. With two out, Cory Larson was safe when his grounder to Kleiman at short was fielded correctly, but the throw was in the dirt and into foul territory, sending Larson into second base.
He scored on an RBI single from Tyler Lajoie, tying the game at 2-2.
But the Eskymos regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Escanaba's speed was a factor again. DeHaan let off with a single to left, but was erased when Falish grounded into a force play. Falish stole second, then as Devin Olsen took a walk on a 3-2 pitch, Falish took off for third.
Larson, a solid catcher for the Miners, hurried his throw (pictured at left), and it went beyond third base, scoring Falish with the go-ahead run.
"It makes kids play faster, and they (opponents) hurry because they know the kids on base have speed," Schwalbach said. "They know that if someone hits a slow roller, man, they have to be quick. And that leads to mistakes when you can put that kind of pressure on a fielder. With that kind of speed, that's an asset for our team."
That was more than enough for DeHaan. In the seventh inning, he quickly got the first two outs, and after Larson got a single, DeHaan got Lajoie to hit into a force to end it. DeHaan pitched all seven innings, giving up five hits and walking just two batters.
"There were a couple of times where we didn't make plays and give Alex the support that he needed," Schwalbach said. "But he kept pounding the strike zone. He kept battling. Alex has pitched some good games this season and hasn't gotten the win, so he deserved this one."
"From the third inning, it was my change-up," DeHaan said. "I felt really good because I had a couple cuts on my fingers from earlier in the season and they finally had time to heal. It was great to pitch today."
He struck out four batters. Jandron ended up with a tough loss. He had 13 strikeouts, and allowed just three hits (by Young, Lyle, and DeHaan) and one earned run. Jandron also had two hits and a walk at the plate and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Esky's Ian DeMarse with the big scoop just in time at first.
The Eskymos had escaped for the second straight time against Jandron and the Miners, and the boys enjoyed a lunch provided by the Escanaba Baseball Boosters.
Then the Miners faced Menominee in the third place game. That game went down to the wire, with Menominee leading 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With two out, Larson rifled a 2-1 pitch up the gap for a walk-off two-run base hit, and Negaunee won, 3-2.
That set up a championship game between the Eskymos and the Redmen. Marquette is in its third year of high school baseball, and had been regularly mercied throughout the first two years. But the Redmen have a winning record this year, and they beat Menominee, 5-0, in Saturday's first semifinal. And the championship game was close.
Marquette took the lead in the top of the third inning when Ryan Frasier singled, and went to second when Kleiman's pick-off throw went into foul territory. Frasier scored on a single by Collin Schwemin. The Redmen had a 1-0 lead, but they would not get another base hit the rest of the game as Kleiman was in control on the mound.
Marquette pitcher Josh Beaudry delivers.
Meanwhile, the Eskymos were having trouble scoring against Marquette hurler Josh Beaudry. Finally, in the third inning, Young ripped one to the fence that ended up being a triple. Young scored when Nick Vandermissen's fly ball to right was dropped.
The game was still tied, 1-1, when the Eskymos came to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning, and that is where the game turned.
Young led off with a single past the third baseman, and then he went to second base on an error as they tried to pick him off.
Kleiman hit a pop fly that center fielder Mike House ran toward, but was too far away.
With runners at the corners, Kleiman stole second, and then Vandermissen walked to load the bases with nobody out. So, with three ducks on the pond, it was time to tell DeHaan to kill the ball, find a gap somewhere, break this game open. Right?
Alex DeHaan Suicide Squeeze Breaks Tie.
Nope. Schwalbach told DeHaan to bunt. Bunt? Are you nuts? Your #4 hitter with the bases loaded and you bunt? Yep. And DeHaan executed the suicide squeeze perfectly with a bunt up the first base side.
The Redmen were so surprised that no one covered first base, and DeHaan was also safe as Young scored from third. The score was 2-1. But, really? A squeeze?
Senior Austin Young rounds second base.
"I had a senior at third, and I had a senior at the plate," Schwalbach said. "I said to Austin 'I'm gonna squeeze Alex, what do you think?' and he was like, 'yeah, yeah!'. And Alex told me that when I gave him the sign, his eyes got real big and he said, 'yesss'. I knew that he'd get it down. He'll do anything you ask him to do. A perfect bunt."
"In practice, I always cut in line so I can get more bunts down," DeHaan said. "I know that's bad on my part, but I've loved it every since I was a freshman. Small ball. When you've got to win games like this, that's what you've got to do."
With the bases still loaded, Bailey Lamb crushed the first pitch he saw for a two-run single right up the middle to make it 4-1.
That brought up sophomore Cam Beversluis two men on base. Schwalbach told Beversluis to bunt, but he fouled it off. A moment later, the baserunners moved to second and third, however, on another error. So, the bunt was off from there.
"He dropped the barrel (of the bat)," Schwalbach said. "You can't drop the barrel or you will pop up the bunt, and that's what happened there."
Cam Beversluis Hits a Three-Run Homer.
So, with the bunt sign off, Beversluis found a pitch that he liked. The sophomore made up for the foul bunt by clubbing a three-run home run to right field, putting the game out of reach at 7-1.
"It was crazy," an almost-speechless Beversluis said after the game. "It was one of those moments that, I don't know, it was crazy. I was really happy. He wanted me to bunt and advance the runners, but fouled the bunt off and that got me into a little bit of trouble. But then, I got a fastball right down the middle."
"Ya, I called the 'bomb sign'," Schwalbach joked. "I told Cam that it was because of the weight room. He's stronger. He put a load into that ball. Wow. I couldn't believe it."
Eskymo Ben Kleiman tossed a two-hitter.
Kleiman finished up in dominating fashion on the mound. He retired the final 13 batters he faced, and none of them hit a ball out of the infield.
Kleiman struck out the side in the sixth inning, and ended up fanning nine Redmen batters, five of them looking.
"I just wanted to throw strikes," Kleiman said. "He (Schwalbach) pretty much called only curveballs because it was working."
"I think at one point, I had him throw 11 straight curveballs," Schwalbach confirmed. "And he threw ten of them for strikes. I mean, it was just wicked. Those kids couldn't hit it. I've never seen someone throw a curveball with such command."
But one of the more impressive things about this tournament was seeing the progress that the young Redman program has made to be competitive. Still facing challenges where kids have to choose between playing for the Marquette American Legion Blues team or for the Redmen, the high school team has been able to attract young talent.
"They've come a long way, even since the last time we played them (April 10)," Schwalbach said.
Marquette is 8-6 this season. That's more wins than in their first two years combined.
Ben Kleiman Diving Catch in game vs Negaunee.
Young was named the tournament's Offensive Most Valuable Player for the tournament. Kleiman was named the tournament's Most Valuable Defensive Player/Pitcher. Young, DeHaan, Beversluis, Lamb, and Kleiman were picked to the All-Tournament Team. That 14-member "team" also included four Redmen, three Miners, and two Menominee Red Wave players.
Escanaba (12-6) makes the short trip to Gladstone Wednesday night. The time for that game has been changed. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:30 at Don Olsen Field. The game will be broadcast on WCHT-AM (600), and on-line at www.rrnsports.com.
You can see a dozen pictures from each of Escanaba's games by clicking the thumbnails in the "ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS" box. And you can hear some of the radio replays from the tournament there.
Thanks to Holly Bockman for taking these pictures all day long!
Esky's Sean Bissell makes the play as Negaunee's Tyler Jandron is out on a fielders choice.