ANOTHER BATTLE: Peacock Outduels Ortman, 1-0

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos, and click the AUDIO buttons to hear post-game  interviews with Lenny Peacock, Alex Ortman, Norway Manager Tony Adams, and Escanaba Manager Scott Hanson.

Lenny Peacock and Alex Ortman hooked up in an old-fashioned pitcher's duel Thursday night as the Escanaba Eskymos and Norway Knights played another tight baseball game. Escanaba won the game, 1-0, as Peacock struck out ten batters and allowed two hits. Ortman threw a one-hitter in defeat, but three walks in the first inning hurt him.

It was yet another down-to-the-wire battle between these two teams, who face each other only one a year, almost at playoff time, and serve as top competition to each other every spring.

"That's a nice team." Escanaba Manager Scott Hanson said of the Knights. "We've played some amazing games with Norway the past couple of years. Last years's was memorable (2-1 walkoff win) and in Jared's senior year (his son) up in Norway was about as good as it gets. We're fortunate that we have a good relationship with them, and I have tremendous respect for Tony (Adans) and root for Norway when it comes to the post-season. I'm glad they're willing to come over and play us."

Adams started the Norway program from scratch nearly two decades ago, and other than a couple of years that he stepped aside to watch his daughter play softball, he has been the head coach. The Knights, along with Rudyard, have set the standard in Division Four baseball in the Upper Peninsula.

"Our message in the winter in the gym, and this spring, is that we're going to do and compete," Adams said. "We've played five ranked teams in the State of Michigan. We played one in the State of Wisconsin, and in every single one of them, we've competed. Esky (unranked) threw their Number One, and Peacock is legit. We needed to see that."

The only run of the game came in the first inning, when Ortman walked three batters after an error at third base. The walk to Brody Ison scored Chase Cloutier, who reached base on that lead-off error. From there, it was Peacock vs Ortman, plus great defense behind them both.

Ortman, a senior who will play baseball and basketball at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, allowed only one hit: to Eskymo senior Nick Chiu inthe fifth inning. That was a base hit that did not figure in the scoring. The error, and three walks in the first inning, did.

"I wasn't mentally prepared and that first inning really got me," Ortman said."After that inning, my pitching was all right, but my teammates made heck of great plays in the infield. But that first inning, just, was not prepared."

Still, Adams says coming close isn't good enough.

"It's still disappointing," he said. "We've got three pitchers that we'll pitch against anybody and I thought Alex did a heck of a job.  I mean, we had the error, and three walks, and that was it. But we just couldn't overcome it. I love playing this game. But I'd also love to win. And our kids came down here with that mindset. Another one-run game. We just didn't get the big win."

The three walks that Ortman gave up stand out in the box score, but Hanson says that Cloutier staying alive on that lead-off at-bat turned out to be a huge play in the game.

"Chase, with a two-strike dribbler down the (third base) line that gets missplayed," Hanson said. "That ends up being our run. It sounds like such a little thing, but that's some of the things that we haven't done. Just that Chase put that ball in play with two strikes was huge."

That turned out to be the only run Peacock needed, as he dominated on the mound with ten strikeouts. He did walk three batters, and allowed hits to Landon Amundson and Ian Popp, but the Eskymo defense was able to hold the fort. And so was Peacock, with two strikeouts in four of the seven innings.

"I felt good out there," Peacock said. "Throwing hard, breaking ball was working, and I had a good defense behind me today, so it was great. We did all we needed to do today. We got one (run) across. That's all you can ask for in a 1-0 ballgame."

Hanson has made sure not to overwork Peacock on the mound, knowing that the sophomore will be needed if his Eskymo team is able to make a playoff push in June.

"You just saw one of his better pitching performances," Hanson said. "It reminded me of his no-hitter last year here against Kingsford in the districts.  If you look at Lenny's stats, his post-season awards aren't going to be great. I've pitched him against the best teams. He's as good as anybody out there. He pitched an absolute gem. And I had him and McKaiden (freshman catcher Hughes) call almost everything today."

Peacock has no problem with that at all.

"I like it," Peacock said. "It brings me almost back to summer ball. You know, a week in between each outing. My coach has been great about keeping me with great innings. I think I'm up to 37 now, which I love. My arm's been good, and I'm happy with it."

At one point, Peacock pointed and motioned that he was going to throw a curveball. He did, and he got the out. But Adams says that his Norway guys had to adjust, and they did.

"Honestly, I thought we weren't ready the first couple of innings in the box," Adams said. "I thought as the game went on, we got better at that against him. But he had a really powerful mix. The fastball is hot."

There was execllent defense on both sides. Cole Baij was strong at shortstop for the Knights, making three plays, including one deep in the hole that deprived the Eskymos of a scoring chance. He was also in on a 1-6-3 double play that Ortman started on the mound.

Escanaba also had great defense, in particular, from the team's new third baseman, Gardner.


LISTEN: Alex Ortman post-game comments
LISTEN: Norway Coach Tony Adams comments
LISTEN: Scott Hanson post-game comments
LISTEN: Lennox Peacock post-game comments