TAKE TWO: Eskymo Baseball Gets Sweep Over Soo
Click the thumbnails for photos and videos, and to hear post-game comments from Escanaba players Eli Gardner, Chase Cloutier, Lenny Peacock, Kaiden Brown, along with Eskymo Manager Scott Hanson.
SAULT STE, MARIE---The Escanaba High School baseball team won twice on Saturday on the road in Sault Ste. Marie, beating the Blue Devils, 4-3 and 9-0, in a possible playoff preview.
The Eskymos stretched their win streak to eight games heading into the final week of the regular season, and just two weeks before a possible rematch with the Blue Devils in the district final.
For a while there, it looked like the games might not happen at all because it rained all night in Sault Ste. Marie. But Blue Devil manager Kris Bontrager had his players out early Saturday morning to clean the field once the rain finallu stopped. Those hours worth of work had the field ready to go in time for the 11:00 a.m. first pitch.
Half the Eskymo team came over Friday night and stayed in a hotel, while the other half chose to make the three-hour drive Saturday morning.
"It was good for us to see the Soo," Escanaba Manager Scott Hanson said. "I'm glad we made the trip over. It did not look good this morning when we drove over here. It looked like a washout. They put a lot of effort into getting the field ready so that we could play today, and I'm glad we got to play because this (weather) was as nice as we've had all year."
"I didn't know if we'd get to play," Eskymo outfielder Kaiden Brown said. "I'm glad we did get these games in because the experience of playing them will help a lot for districts."
"Momentum is a big thing in baseball, and I think we have a lot of momentum right now," Hanson added.
In the first game, the Eskymos jumped to a 2-0 lead when a walk and two errors loaded the bases. With one out, Matt Kaven drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly, and then Ben Johnson followed with a RBI single to right field.
The Blue Devils got one of the runs back as Eskymo starter Bon LaChance hit Avery Wilson with a pitch with one out in the inning. Wilson stole second and scored on a base hit by Josh Lumsden.
Then in the second inning, the Blue Devils took the lead as LaChance struggled to throw strikes. He hit the first man he faced, and then walked the next two. Matt Lumsden's groundout scored one run, and a wild pitch scored another. That was all for LaChance, as he was replaced on the mound by Eli Gardner to start the third inning.
Escanaba managed to tie the game in the top of the fifth inning when Trent Lawson got a one-out infield single, and went to second on a groundout. He scored the tying run when Kaven slapped a line drive base hit to center field, making it a 3-3 game.
Gardner was cruising along on the mound, putting up three straight 1-2-3 innings. Then in the top of the sixth inning, the Eskymos grabbed the lead with another clutch two-out hit. Nick Chiu was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and with two out, Chase Cloutier roped an opposite-field shot past a diving right fielder Drew Adair.
"I had a couple of good at-bats," Cloutier said. "I struck out once, but it happens. That last at-bat, Nick Chiu was on third and I knew I had to get him in. I saw an outside pitch and took it to right field and got the run in. Let it get deeper in the zone, and obviously look for an outside pitch because it makes it easier to hit it to the right side of the field."
That set up a dramatic bottom of the sixth inning (these were six-inning games). Ethan Chambers led off with a single, breaking Gardner's string of consecutive outs. Then he hit Josh Lumsden with a pitch to put two men on. Gardner got a strikeout, but then gave up a single to Adair, loading the bases with only one out.
Gardner struck out Odin Medrick for the second out, but fell behind the Soo's best player, Garrett Gorsuch, on a 3-0 count. Gardner got one strike on Gorsuch, then got him to pop up the 3-1 pitch to Lawson at second base, ending the ballgame.
"It came down to a nailbiter there," Gardner said. "3-0, bases loaded, up one run in the last inning. I had to make something happen. Ended up making him put the ball in play and I had great defense behind me today. I leaned on them, for sure. They hug the plate, that's for sure, so that makes it hard. But I was getting the outside pitches called for strikes, so I wasn't complaining."
So, what was he thinking when that count was 3-0, as one more ball ties the game, and one more hit loses the game?
"I'm just thinking fastball in the zone," Gardner said. "Make him put the ball in play and trust the defense. I mean, you can't really get a punch-out with it 3-0 and the bases loaded."
"Eli has probably been our biggest surprise as a pitcher this year," Hanson said. "I'm really happy for him. When the season's done, we'll probably have six games with 20-plus innings this year and that's just huge for our team. I've got kids who did not put ridiculous numbers of innings into their arms, and I think going into the playoffs, that will be huge for us."
Gardner earned the win by pitching four innings, allowing only two hits and no walks. Chambers took the loss in relief after Josh Lumsden threw the first five innings for a no-decision.
The second game of the doubleheader did not have as much suspense as freshman Lenny Peacock went the distance on the mound, throwing a three-hit shutout.
The Eskymos took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Lawson and a run-scoring groundout by LaChance. From there, the star was senior Kaiden Brown, who came through with a pair of two-run singles for his biggest offensive outburst of the season.
The first happened in the fourth inning after Kaven and Johnson walked and Chiu put down a perfect bunt single up the third base line. Brown smacked the line drive to left field to bring home two runs, putting Escanaba in front, 4-0. His second run-scoring hit came in the fifth inning, bringing home Johnson and courtesy runner Trent Turchin to make it 8-0.
In between Brown's base hits, Kaven came through with another RBI single, and Garder also singled home a run. The final Escanaba run came home on a Peacock line drive base hit.
"We might be playing them in districts, so we had to show them what we've got," Brown said. "All around, we played really well today. I knew we had bases loaded when I got up to bat. I mean, I used the Atlas bat today and it worked. I hit it in the gap between third and short and got us two runs. The next inning, I did the same thing and hit it over third base and got two more. That's four ribbies in two innings!"
In all, Escanaba had 13 base hits in that 9-0 win, with Brown and Chiu getting three hits apiece. Matt Lumsden took the loss on the mound, allowing five runs on seven hits in four innings for Sault Ste. Marie (14-10 overall record).
"The bats woke up today," Hanson said. "Not so much the first game, we hit a lot of balls right at people. But in the second game, better. The best-hit ball of the day was Trent Lawson's ball to left field and the kid (Avery Wilson) dove, laid out, and I don't know how he caught that ball. But we had a lot of clutch hitting today. I'm really proud of how our kids played today."
For the Eskymos, Peacock threw all six innings, needing only 81 pitches (56 strikes). He walked three and struck out four, allowing only three base hits.
"The fastball felt well," Peacock said. "I ran it up to 82 (miles per hour) today. I know it was working, the four-seam and two-seam were working well. Ump was giving high in the zone, so I'd run it up with the four-seam and then when I neded a ground ball, I put it in my team's hands with the two-seam. I like going up against teams that can hit the ball. It's more fun when you get groundouts and strikeouts and your team is behind you."
"He pitched a super game," Hanson said. "Not a great start in the first inning, but, man, once he settled in, he pitched a super game. Really a solid day of baseball for us."
Escanaba improved to 18-5 on the season. The Eskymos will host Superior Central on Senior Night on Monday, then host Bark River-Harris in a JV/varsity doubleheader on Tuesday. The game against Bark River-Harris will be broadcast live on Eagle FM-107.3.
Escanaba will also host Marquette on Wednesday (live on FM-93.5, AM-600), host Norway on Thursday (live on FM-93.5, AM-600).
SATURDAY'S OTHER U.P. BASEBALL SCORES
Gladstone 4, Alpena 3
Gaylord 10, Gladstone 5
Norway 7, Kingsford 1
Manistique 1, Superior Central 0 (8 Innings, Game 1)
Manistique 10, Superior Central 7, Game Two
Hancock 4, Negaunee 0
Calumet 14, Iron Mountain 3
Batk River-Harris 8, North Dickinson 3
SATURDAY'S U.P. SOFTBALL SCORES
Escanaba 5, Waterford Kettering 0
Escanaba 19, Orchard Lake St. Mary 0
Escanaba 9, Allen Park 5
Gladstone 12, Grass lake 7
Clare 2, Gladstone 0
Calumet 3, Hancock 2
Calumet 10, Westwood 1
Negaunee 10, Calumet 0