GLADSTONE - Despite a downpour that turned the baseball field into a mud pit and the fact that there were only a handful of hits in the entire ball game, the Negaunee Miners found a way to edge the Gladstone Braves 3-2 and earned the MHSAA Division 3 district baseball championship.
It was all locked up at 2-2 in the fifth inning when Tyler Jandron smashed a double. He tried to push it to a triple and got thrown out at third, but it was enough to take the focus off of Tyler LaJoie, who scored the game-winning run.
"They came up big when we needed it," said Miners coach Mark Hill. "Our defense also made some crucial plays when it counted."
The Negaunee Miners baseball team and coaches pose celebrate after defeating the Gladstone Braves 3-2 Saturday in the MHSAA Division 3 district championship game in Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin Marietti)
The rain held off for the most part until the end of the fifth inning, but then the dark cloud cover moved in and the rain made it difficult to see the ball and make plays on the field, let alone maintain control on the mound.
Jandron, who got the win for the Miners both with his bat and as their ace, said that the weather made for a tough situation in such a tightly contested game.
"It was really tough," he said. "I had a hard time even gripping the ball. I just wanted to keep the heat up and make sure I kept it in the strike zone."
He acknowledged that the Braves might have been slightly favored coming into the game, but that just made the victory even sweeter.
"They're a great team," Jandron said. "I lost my last two games against them, so it was really nice to come out with a W in this one."
Negaunee put up five hits, two of which were from LaJoie. Dustin Goupille and Zane Radloff each had a single.
Negaunee also held Gladstone to just one hit, which came from Blake Ballard.
"We felt confident going in," Hill said. "We finally had our whole team there, but we knew it was going to be a good game."
Hill added the majority of his players advanced to the regional tournament last year, so they know what it's all about.
"It feels good the way our team is finally starting to play like we knew we could," he said.
Jandron had 10 strikeouts and gave up five walks while Ballard received the loss on the mound for the Braves.
With the win, Negaunee (13-7) advances to play in the regional tournament June 8 in Traverse City.