Burgoon Leads Mountaineers To Stunning 3-1 Win

Click the thumbnails for photos and videos, and to hear post-game comments from Niko Burgoon, Connor Pickett, Casey Alworden, and both teams' head coaches. 

Iron Mountain senior pitcher Niko Burgoon pitched a gem and he got big help from freshman third baseman Connor Pickett on Thursday, and the duo led the Mountaineers to a 3-1 upset win over the Gladstone Braves at Ranger Field.


It was just the second win of the season for the Mountaineers (2-11), but when Burgoon finished things with his tenth strikeout of the game, the season record just didn't matter.


“I feel great,” Burgoon said. “My defense played great. I only threw 78 pitches, so not too deep in any counts. My arm feels good. In practice, it's pretty much all defense, and our defense is coming along.”


Iron Mountain Manager Jeff McLean says even through the tough times this season, his young group of players have not thrown in the towel.


“When Niko's on the mound, that's what we're capable of,” McLean said. “When we come out and just play smart baseball, and when you don't walk guys, that's the key. I was elated for him. I think this is something that can propel us into the districts and maybe get us going in the right direction. It's been a tough year. We were 1-10 coming in here. We've played some decent baseball, but just couldn't seem to get over the hump. We're elated to get that win because Gladstone is the gold standard of a program. I don't know if we've beat them in three years, so it was nice to finally get one there.”


Gladstone Manager Tyler Swanson says this proves that his team, despite a much better record, can't just show up and beat another high school baseball team.


“You can't take anything for granted and you've got to be locked in,” Swanson said. “You've got to come with your game every day, otherwise, you never know what's going to happen. He (Burgoon) pitched awesome. The message that we just talked about is, it doesn't matter who you play, it doesn't matter what their record is. It doesn't matter what happened the last three time we played them (all blowout wins). If we don't play well, it's not a given.”


Burgoon, one of the only upperclassmen on a very young Mountaineer team, scored the team's first run in the opening inning when he singled, stole second, and when he noticed that no one was paying attention to him, we also swiped third. A panicked throw went past third base, and Burgoon came home to score.


“I know that Gladstone is a fantastic team, so we have to get runs when we can,” Burgoon said. “I just saw them sleeping, and so I took third, then the overthrow was big, too.”


Gladstone tied the game in the second inning when Johnny Soderman walked, advanced on two wild pitches, and scored on a Gavin Frossard sacrifice fly. But that would be the only run the Braves would get off of Burgoon, who allowed only three hits, and all of them came on the infield.


“First time through, I was throwing a lot of off-speed,” Burgoon said. “And then I noticed the second time through, they were sitting on my off-speed, so I started throwing more fastballs.”


Trevor Thorbahn allowed six hits for the Braves, and he walked two batters and hit two others with pitches. Those two walks ultimately hurt Thorbahn in the fifth inning, when he gave up a line drive base hit to center field by Pickett. The two runs that crossed the plate gave Iron Mountain a 3-1 lead.


“I knew I needed to make a big play,” Pickett said. “He threw me a fastball that I liked, so I just swung and made a nice base hit. It feels great.”


“That play right there, all year long, that ball would have dropped, right,” McLean said. “Then, a run or two scores, and the next thing you know, we're in quicksand and we just can't get out of our own way.”


In the top of the fifth inning, after Rex Kelly got an infield hit, Kaden Gibbs hit a pop fly between the pitcher's mound and second base. Pickett raced over from third base, lunged at it, and made the catch just above the grass. He then turned to first base and made an easy toss for a huge 5-3 double play.


“I felt like I could make the play, so I just went for it,” Pickett said. “I caught it, and he went, so I just made a good throw back to first and got the double play. This says that we can play with anybody. I know we've had some bad losses this year and we've been ten-run-ruled a lot, but we can play with anyone.”


That wasn't the only huge play on defense for the Mountaineers. In the sixth inning, Casey Alworden smoked one toward the right field corner. Lane Wender ran over, did a full-out dive, and caught it for the first out of the inning.

“Lane just absolutely robbed him (Alworden) on that one,” McLean said. “That was a heck of a hit. And if that goes to the fence, then it could have been a couple of runs (later that inning) and the game changes.”


Indeed, that turned out to be a huge out because Nate Young beat out an infield hit, Cooper Sanville was safe on an error, and Soderman drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch on a check swing that was close to a strikeout.


With the bases loaded, Burgoon didn't dwell on his bad fortune. He quickly worked on Frossard, getting a swinging strike three for his tenth punch out of the season. And that was an accomplishment in of itself, since Frossard had only struck out three times all season until Burgoon got him twice Thursday night.


And then, a surprising answer from Burgoon about NOT getting the call on the Soderman close-call.


“I was actually kind of happy,” Burgoon said. “Because I don't like pitching from the stretch. So, coming through the wind-up with the bases loaded, I felt way more comfortable.”


With the win, the Mountaineers players and coaches say they proved to themselves what they are capable of.


“I feel great,” Pickett said. “We pulled off a win against a tough team, one of the toughest teams in the U.P.”

For the Braves players, it was a case of “lesson learned”.


“We just couldn't get our bats going, and that's what killed us,” Gladstone junior Casey Alworden said. “We made a few mistakes in the field, and when you make errors, it's hard to come back from that. I have to give my props to Niko. He pitched a really good game. He had his off-speed working. We just didn't play our best game.”


Swanson says that his Gladstone team needs to find that balance between highs and lows.


“We can't ride the emotional roller coaster,” Swanson said. “When we're scoring runs, we're playing really, really well. When we don't, or we hit something hard right at somebody, we get really, really down on ourselves. We've got to be able to find the middle and be calm under pressure.”


McLean is hoping that history repeats itself for his team. Last year, his Mountaineer team had a dreadful regular season record before stunning Calumet in the season finale, and then winning an improbable district championship.


“The things finally bounced the Mountaineers' way tonight,” McLean said. “I'm just excited for the kids because they really do work hard at it. Hopefully, we can shock the world again come June.”


GAME TWO: GLADSTONE 17, IRON MOUNTAIN 6 (4 INNINGS)---In a game that was marked by numerous walks, errors, hit batters, and base hits, the Braves spotted the Mountaineers a 4-1 lead after one inning but roared back to earn a split in the doubleheader.

Alworden and Soderman both scored three runs, and Soderman had an RBI single and a bases-clearing triple. Three different Gladstone pitchers threw, with Alworden getting the final three outs. Four different Mountaineers pitched.

Jake Powell and Joey Wahoviak both had RBI hits for the Mountaineers. Besides Soderman's four RBI, Gladstone got an RBI double from Frossard, a run-scoring single from Isaac Ketchum, and a two-run double and sac fly from Sanville.


Gladstone improved its season record to 13-8 with the nightcap win.

LISTEN: IM Coach Jeff McLean comments
LISTEN: Tyler Swanson post-game comments
LISTEN: Casey Alworden post-game comments
LISTEN: Connor Pickett post-game comments
LISTEN: Niko Burgoon post-game comments