Norse Baseball Suffers Stinging Loss After Victory

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OSSINEKE, Mich.---
For more than 90 percent of Tuesday's baseball doubleheader between the Bay College Norse and the Alpena Community College Lumberjacks, things were going Bay's way.

The Norse won the first game, 7-2, and had a 4-1 lead behind great pitching from Hunter Ballantyne heading into the bottom of the seventh inning in an effort to complete a huge Michigan Community College Athletic Association sweep.

But the wheels fell off in the final inning of that nightcap as the Norse bullpen gave up four runs and the Norse lost a heartbreaker, 5-4.

After playing steady defense the whole afternoon, the fact that a defensive error brought home Alpena's winning run, especially stung for the Norse. And now, Coach Mike Pankow's team put itself behind the eight ball, trailing Mid Michigan by three games for the second and final playoff spot with ten games left in the conference season.

“We're in a position where we can't lose a lot of games, and this one hurts,” Pankow said. “Hunter threw one heck of a game, and he deserved a win there. But we missed some opportunities earlier in the game to score some more runs (left the bases loaded twice). We had a couple of guys who were trying to do a little too much in those situations, just trying to be heroes instead of doing their jobs, and chasing some pitches out of the zone. Yeah. That's not a good loss.”

The game ended with Escanaba High School graduate Scottie Hiller on the mound, after the Lumberjacks hit the first reliever, Jake Sager, hard.

Hiller struggled to throw strikes, but was one out away from the save when Alpena's Matt Thompson rifled a two-run single to tie the game at 4-4. Hiller still appeared to be able to get the game to extra innings when he got Caleb Stuck to hit a weak grounder between the mound, first, and second base.

Norse sophomore first baseman Zac Gomersall made a good play on the ball, but he underhanded a wild throw to first base, and the error sealed Bay's fate in a stinging loss.

“Zac makes that play 99 out of 100 (times),” Pankow said. “He took care of the hard part (fielding). But he throws it away. That's on me, then. We haven't put these guys in enough pressure situations where they understand that. We've got to do some things to get ready for this weekend, because we are going to be in some good games with Mid (Michigan).”

Ballantyne was in complete control for five innings, allowing just two hits. In the sixth inning, an error put a man on base for Alpena, and Thompson crushed an RBI double to put the Lumberjacks on the board.

Ballantyne got the next three outs, ending the inning with a 4-1 lead. Pankow then went to the bullpen in the seventh, bringing in Sager to try to get the save. It didn't work, so Pankow brought in Hiller, who has done well in these situations recently. That also didn't work, and the Norse had a long bus ride home.

Blake, who was named the MCCAA North Conference Player of the Week earlier in the day, had an RBI single, and Zach Gibson followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly, to give Bay a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning. Andres Franco had the RBI double in the second inning, and a wild pitch scored Bay's fourth run in the sixth inning.

But the Norse stranded the bases loaded, and that turned out to contribute to a loss that Balantyne didn't deserve. He gets a no-decision, allowing one run (unearned) on three hits and two walks in six innings. Hiller takes the loss.

Earlier, things were better for the Norse, as they beat the Lumberjacks, 7-2. Bay scored five runs in the fifth inning, with George Cooper and Blake each driving in a run, and Gomersall bringing home two with a hit. That was enough for Lorenzo Feliciano, who scattered five hits over five innings, allowing two runs (one earned).

Bill Hosegood tossed the final two innings for the Norse, allowing no runs on two hits.

Blake ended up with three hits in that game, hours after learning he had been named the conference Player of the Week for his work last weekend in western Wisconsin.

With the split, Alpena improved to 6-17 overall, 3-7 in MCCAA play. The Lumberjacks have six more games this weekend, which is why they used seven pitchers in the doubleheader.

Bay is now 13-13 overall, and 4-6 in MCCAA play. The Norse are three games behind Mid Michigan for the final playoff spot, and the Lakers are coming to Escanaba to kick off a ten-game Norse homestand this weekend. Bay will likely need to sweep the four games from the Lakers, or at least win three games, to have a legitimate playoff hope.

“I think, honestly, this (loss) puts more pressure on us this weekend, which is what we don't need,” Pankow said. “I think every game is a must-win from here on out. That's tough to do when you're talking about ten games. We've got to play our best ball and possibly run the table (against Mid Michigan, Delta College, and Alpena again).”

The doubleheaders on Friday start at 2:00 and on Saturday at 1:00. The first game on Friday, the home opener after 26 games away from Escanaba, will be broadcast live on FM-93.5 and AM-600 in Escanaba, AM-1450 in Iron Mountain, and on-line at

LISTEN: Josh Blake post-game comments
LISTEN: Mike Pankow post-game comments