Marquette Starts Fast In Rain; Holds Off Gladstone

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos taken by GHS student Jayger Quinn, and to hear post-game interviews from players and coaches.

The Marquette High School baseball team scored four runs in the first two innings and held on to beat the Gladstone Braves, 4-3.

The Sentinels took advantage of a driving rainstorm in the top of the first inning that made it hard for Braves pitcher Isaac Ketchum to throw the ball.

Marquette scored three runs in that inning, and then Mother Nature smiled the rest of the way as the rain slowed to a drizzle, and then, nothing at all.

The Braves, though, can't blame the loss on the weather.

Even after falling behind furing that moist start to the game, they stranded eleven baserunners against Marquette pitchers Gibby Jezewski, Nick Pantti, and Ian Sheltrow.

“We certainly didn't get the clutch hit when we needed it,” Gladstone Manager Tyler Swanson said. “I've got to be better. I've got to put our guys in a better position to succeed, maybe take some chances when we need to. That's something we'll clean up as we move forward. Opportunities are there. We've just got to make a play. I've got be better, my guys will be better. Right now, we're not doing it.”

It was yet another close loss for Gladstone, following down-to-the-wire losses in the past two weeks to Iron Mountain, Negaunee, Menominee, and now, Marquette.

But the Braves, celebrating Senior Night, did get good efforts from their five seniors: Nate Young, Kaden Gibbs, Rex Kelly, Johnny Soderman, and Owen Mattonen.

“Hats off to them,” Swanson said. “I thought they did pretty good. We were just one hit away.”

Gibbs, who hadn't played competitive baseball since the small Little League fields, had a solid base hit and was robbed of another by Sheltrow at short. Mattonen had an RBI hit. Young, who up until last year also hadn't played baseball, had two hits. And Kelly, the latest of the Kelly boys, had three hits, driving in a run.

“It felt good to do that on Senior Night,” Kelly said, and then with his typical humor, added, “yeah, my coach and I, we've been working on it. To crack the code. And we finally found it! See ball, hit ball.”

Then, more seriously, Kelly added:

“We're on the brink of it,” he said. “We've got a young team here. I feel good about where we're at. We're going to get some here.”

For Marquette, though, it was a great night, and the win keeps the Sentinels mathematically alive for a share of the Great Northern Conference title.

“Our season is starting to wind down here,” Marquette Manager Mark Pantti said. “But this was sweet to sweep Gladstone. We haven't done that in 12 years. This has been an up-and-down season. But we've been fighting in all of our conference games. This is huge for them, and it's a huge way for my seniors to walk out of Gladstone.”

And Pantti has done it with a team of mostly underclassmen. The player of the game Thursday was Sheltrow, who had a base hit, walked three times, made a great play at short, and came on the mound at the end to get the final two outs.

“Our biggest thing was to be relaxed, you know, to play our game,” Sheltrow said. “We've been giving it our all, all of the time, relying on our defense, trying to get out bats going as best we can, and just play baseball.”

Marquette took advantage of two walks in that soggy first inning, and then Aiden McCullom put down a bunt to move the runners over. McCullom also reached base when nobody covered first for the Braves.

With the bases loaded, Brody Caster lifted a fly ball to bring in one run, Nick Pantti poked a base hit to right field to bring in another, and a third run scored on a Gladstone error.

The Sentinels added a run in the second inning when Jake Toyras beat out an infield hit, Sheltrow walked (again), and Halen McCollom grounded out to shortstop.

Gladstone squandered multiple scoring chances against Jezewski on the mound. In the second inning, Gavin Frossard singled and tried to score all the way from first base on a double by senior Rex Kelly. Frossard was called out on a close play at the plate.

In the third inning, the Braves loaded the bases with no outs on hits by Kaden Gibbs and Casey Alworden, and a walk to senior Nate Young. Jezewski got two fly balls and a fielder's choice grounder to get out of that inning unscathed.

In the sixth inning, still down 4-0, Frossard and Kelly both got base hits to start the inning, and a passed ball allowed the first run to score. Austin Pepin was out on a fielder's choice, but Mattonen got a single. That was all for Jezewski, who reached his 105-pitch count.

With two on base, reliever Nick Pantti hit a batter to reload the bases, and Young got his second hit of the game to score a run, making it a 4-2 game. But Pantti got Cooper Sanville to ground out, so the Braves left the bases loaded for the second time.

In the top of the seventh inning, Marquette could have put the game away when the Sentinels loaded the bases with no outs. But reliever Austin Pepin got Caster to pop up, and Pantti hit into a 4-6-3 double play, ending the threat.

The Braves had a chance in the bottom of the seventh when Pantti walked the lead-off man. A groundout moved Soderman to second base, and then Kelly got his third hit of the game, an RBI single that brought the Braves to within 4-3.

With one out and the tying run on base, Pantti took his son off of the mound and brought in Sheltrow. And the junior delivered, striking out Pepin and getting Mattonen to fly out. The Braves never were able to get that tying run into scoring position, and Marquette celebrated its second win over Gladstone this season.

Sheltrow says his plan was simple as he came on to save the game.

“Just throw strikes and rely on my defense,” he said. “I knew the boys had my back there.”

“Offensively and defensively, that's just who he (Sheltrow) is,” Coach Pantti said. “He is a very patient kid. He doesn't get down on himself when he makes errors. Even when I get on him a little bit, he just settles right back in and plays. Wherever we put him, he just plays ball. He's got speed, is smart on the bases. He listens so well, and he knows the game so well.”

While Sheltrow earned the save on the mound, Jezewski picked up the win, navigating 5 1/3 innings of work in which he allowed nine hits, but never the huge one.

“He made big pitches and we had solid defense behind him,” Coach Pantti said. “Gib just pitches, and he puts a lot of trust in his defense. He struggled in his early outings this year, but he has settled in so phenomenally and has just done a great job for us.”

Gladstone fell to 16-11 on the season, and the Braves will head downstate for a tournament in Kingsley on Saturday. The first game is against Gaylord at 11 a.m.

“Adversity has kind of been the story of our season,” Swanson said. “We've got to be able to work through it. We've got to be able to embrace adversity and come out stronger on the other end.”

Marquette improved to 10-9 on the season, and stayed one game behind GNC co-leaders Escanaba and Kingsford. The Sentinels need to beat Menominee in the season finale, and also have Esky lose to Gladstone, and Kingsford lose to Menominee. That would create a three-way tie for the title. There are no tiebreakers in the GNC.

Next up for the Sentinels: a special night on Monday. Marquette will host the first-ever night games, under the brand new lights, at Haley Field. The opponent will be the Negaunee Miners, with games set for 6:00 and 8:00.

The RRN microphones will be there to broadcast all of the action, on FM-100.3 The Point, starting with the pre-game show at 5:45 Monday evening.

LISTEN: Tyler Swanson post-game comments
LISTEN: Ian Sheltrow post-game comments
LISTEN: Marquette Manager Mark Pantti comments
LISTEN: Rex Kelly post-game comments