• American Legion BB 6/22: Gladstone 5, Marquette 2
  • American Legion BB 6/22: Iron Mountain 9, Bark River 3, Gm1
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Thursday June 24, 2021
WILD FINISH: Menominee Caps Season With Title

IRON MOUNTAIN---The Upper Peninsula Under-19 baseball season came to an end with the U.P. Finals on SaturdayThe, and the four teams still left standing saved the best for last.

The six-week season set up in the aftermath of the Ameruican Legion's coronavirus-related cancellations came to a close Saturday with three one-run games that you had to see to believe.

Menominee beat the Iron Mountain-Kingsford-Norway team, 9-8, in extra innings, in a game that had plenty of controversy at the end.

Not to be outdone, the Marquette-Gladstone semifinal saw its share of game-ending controversy as Gladstone rallied for a 4-3 win in its final at-bat.

And then in the championship game, it was a replay of so many Gladstone-Menominee games, but this time, it was the Menominee coming out on top in a wild back-and-forth contest, 7-6.

For longtime Menominee Red Wave Manager Jon Lauzer, it was redemption, after losing to the Indians in back-to-back state championship games in 2017 and 2018.  This was not a state final, only a U.P. final, but it sure had a state tournament feel to it.

"This was the state championship," Lauzer said. "The (winning) team was going to come from the U.P., whether it be Gladstone, us, Marquette, even Iron Mountain. One of us four would have won it. We've faced each other a lot (in the state finals) the last three years, four years. I love playing Gladstone. They're such good ball players."

"We were pretty steady throughout the game, scoring a little at a time, which is kind of what we preach," Indians Manager Justin Jurek said. "The guys played hard. They never gave up on anything. Other than the Esky game, every game in this whole tournament, we were down, and were able to come back. That just says a lot about the guys."

Andrew Schroeder, a Wausaukee High School graduate and Marian University student, pitched 6 1/3 innings to earn the win. He was on the 2018 team that lost to the Indians in the state championship game.

"I feel exhausted, two games in this heat, it was a long day," Schroeder said. "I'm so glad we got the win. I'm stoked. I'm at a loss for words. I remember two years ago. I'm glad we pulled it off today."

The Indians raced to a 3-0 lead in the first two innings as Dayton Bernson and Blake Krouth had RBI hits in the first inning, and Caden Alworden singled home a run in the second inning.

Menominee got a run back in the third inning on a groundout by Keagan Monroe, and a groundout by Buddy Beyer in the fourth inning.

Gladstone squandered a scoring chance in the bottom of the third when Dan Martin led off with a double and got bunted to third by Parker Frappier. But Bernson could not get the squeeze down, and Gladstone did not score in the inning.

The Indians regained a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning when Drake Forrest was hit by a pitch and scored all the way from first on a double by Zach Hanson.

Hanson was able to keep the Red Wave off the board until the sixth inning, when Menominee scored five runs as Hanson ran out of gas (and pitch count) on the mound.

Austin Burnside and Braeden McMahon had back-to-back doubles to score one run, then after a Buddy Beyer single, the Red Wave went to "small ball".

Keaton Uecke bunted a high pitch up the third base side. Hanson got to it off the mound, but when he shoveled it to third, the ball got away, and the tying run scored. Then Dante Sartorelli bunted and Bernson charged it from first, and booted it.

"Kind of a little redemption because Gladstone has had such good bunters over the years," Lauzer said. "It worked for us to go to a little small ball. Keaton and Dante. That was a big difference. Those look good in the book!"

Schroeder and Monroe followed with RBI singles and it was a 7-4 game, and Frappier replaced Hanson on the mound and stopped the bleeding.

Gladstone did not give up. Just as they had done in the Friday comeback win over Copper Country, and in Saturday's semifinal win over Marquette, the Indians rallied at the end.

In the bottom of the sixth, Riley Baldovski was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Schwalbach smoked one to the left field fence that was just shy of home run distance.

Hanson's sacrafice fly cut it to 7-5. Then Caden Alworden smoked one toward left field but Beyer jumped up in the air and caught it, ending the inning.

After Frappier retired the Red wave 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh, the Indians battled Schroeder in the bottom half. Frappier was safe on an error with one out, Bernson got a hit, then Blake Krouth smoked one off Schroeder's foot. The ball bounced away, the Indians scored a run, and Schroeder was done with his 108 pitches thrown.

"He threw his heart out," Lauzer said. "I wasn't even going to let him throw those last eleven pitches, but he had that look in his eye."

"I didn't have my best stuff working today, but all you can really do is compete, and keep throwing strikes, and goof things will happen," Schroeder said.

Good things happened for Red Wave reliever Hunter Goldschmidt. With runners on second and third and one out, he got Baldovski to hit it back to him for the second out. Goldschmidt walked Forrest to load the bases, then faced Schwalbach with the bases loaded.

He got behind in the count 2-0, and then after Schwalbach fouled it off, he got a pop up to Uecke to end the ball game.

Schroeder got the win, allowing six runs on ten hits but no walks, He struck out seven. McMahon was the big hitter for Menominee, with two singles and a double.

Hanson took the loss, allowing seven runs (four earned) on eight hits and three walks, and he struck out four. Martin, Krouth, and Bernson had two hits apiece for the Indians.

The one thing the both teams shared after the game was gratitude.

"We've been saying a prayer every  game, and we bless ourselves that we're able to be out here with this COVID stuff," said Lauzer, in his 43rd year of coaching in Menominee. "High school not having baseball, and I had four players out there who weren't able to finish their high school careers."

"Reigning out here as champions in an independent league feels great."

"I'm just glad we were able to get a season in," Jurek said. "Get the guys some playing time. It was a big letdown not being able to get a high school season. So for these guys to be able to come out this summer and enjoy the weather and play some baseball, that's what really matters."

SEMIFINAL #1, MENOMINEE 9, IRON MOUNTAIN 8---The game was back-and-forth all morning long, with Menominee taking a 5-1 lead after two innings only to see IMKN score three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth to grab a 6-5 lead. 
The game was tied at 6-6 after regulation, so the international tiebreaker was used to play the eighth inning, with each team starting the inning with a runner at second. IMKN scored twice in the top of the eighth as Bryce Pietrantonio brought in the first run with a grounder and Caleb Johnson singled in the second run.

In the bottom of the inning, a couple of errors and a hit-batsmen scored two runs for the Red Wave, and it appeared that they won the game when Sartorelli hit a grounder to the right side of the infield, and second baseman Sawyer Pugh couldn't make a play as he altered his path to the ball due to the baserunner between first and second (Uecke) being in the way.

The ruling was that the run scored and Menominee won. But after the Red Wave cleared the dugout and left the field, an extraordinary second meeting of the umpires was held after Iron Mountain protested, and the rule books came out.

After a long meeting, the officials reversed the call, and unbelievably, interference was called on Uecke, the run was wiped off the board, and the game remained tied going to a ninth inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, Ethan Russell's sacrafice fly won it (again) for Menominee.

"We don't like Iron Mountain, and they don't really like us," Russell said. "Coming up in the Nine Hole, some people don't expect much out of me. But I got a piece of the ball and that's really all that matters."

Goldschmidt and Monroe both had two hits for Menominee, and Austin Burnside picked up the win in rrelief. Hunter McCarthy and Kody Hendricks boyj had three singles to lead IMKN. Jesse Julian added a single and a double.

SEMIFINAL #2 GLADSTONE 4, MARQUETTE 3---The second semifinal also had its dramatic and controversial ending. The Indians took a 2-1 lead in the second inning on RBI singles by Forrest and Schwalbach, after Krouth and Baldovski had started a two-out rally with back-to-back hits.

Marquette tied it up against the Indians starter, Forrest, on a Clayton Smith sacrafice fly in the fourth inning during an eleven-pitch at-bat. Then Erik Johnson's RBI single in the fifth inning gave Marquette a 3-2 lead.
The Indians got the first two runners on in the top of the sixthm but couldn't get a bunt down, and the next three guys all got outs.

In the seventh, the Indians had one last chaznce to save their season. Hanson led off with a walk, and that was all for Marquette pitcher Jon Jason, who reached his pitch count limit.
Alworden bunted Hanson to second, then Hanson stole third. Reliever Kyle Frusti intentionally walked Martin, and the Indians were down to their final strike when Frusti uncorked a wild pitch to score Hanson with the tying run.

That brought up Bernson, who also got two strikes on him. He smacked a base hit up the middle to give Gladstone the lead.
"I knew I just had to hit it in play, and make the defense work," Bernson said. "I know I've been struggling a little bit, and haven't been finding the gaps. It was such a relief. I haven't had a solid base hit like that in a couple games, so it was a big relief."
But Marquette, playing without top players Blake Henriksen (elbow) and Jake Peterson (family comittment), still had a last gasp. Forrest was able to strike out Clayton Smith to lead off, then Frusti got a base hit. Connor Steer smoked a line drive toward left that was caught by Alworden at third, but Alworden rushed his throw and did not double off Frusti at first.
On his second pitch, Hanson got Erik Johnson to hit a fly ball into the right field corner, in foul territory. It was near the area where the batting cages jutt out, which reduces the amount of foul ground.

Brendan Kaski followed with a bloop fly to right that landed on the chalk, and all of a sudden, the Blues had runners at second and third. What's more, Forrest reached his pitch count, which brought Hanson in to try and put the game away.

Schwalbach, who just moved to right field as part of a triple switch at the pitching change, raced after the ball. He caught it up against the fence line, leaning over the fence to catch it.

He fell over the fence, with the ball. The umpire ruling was "out", and the game ended.
Marquette Manager Derek Swajanen was enraged. He had already been irritated by some earlier borderline calls, but the ruling on the foul ball led to a lengthy protest that ended with the teams lining up to congratulate each other. It ended a promising Marquette season with an 18-4 record, with two of those losses coming to Gladstone.
Forrest earned the win, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
"I felt great," Forrest said. "From the top of their lineup all the way thorough, they're a good hitting team. They're so unpredicatable. Anyone, at any moment, can rip one down the line. It doesn't matter if it's the first batter, or the ninth batter. So, you've got to be precise on your pitches and your spotting, and the count, and just it worked in my favor today."
Hanson earned the save. Krouth led the Gladstone offense by going 3-for-3 plus a walk.
Jason got a no-decision, allowing three runs on six hits in six-plus innings. Frusti took the loss.

Frusti was good at the plate, the only Blues player to get two hits.
Click the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box above to see photos, video clips, and to hear radio interviews.

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