GLADSTONE - Throughout the winter off-season months, and the beginning of training camp, the Gladstone Braves' baseball team had one goal in mind: avenge last year's district loss, and beat Tyler Jandron and Negaunee.
On Friday, in the opening round of the districts, the Braves exacted revenge on the Miners and Jandron, as Gladstone received a gem of a pitching performance from their own pitcher - Sam Pouliot - in a 4-2 victory. Later in the day, Gladstone would go on to defeat Houghton, 10-0, for the MHSAA Division 3 district title.
But the top two teams in the district - Gladstone and Negaunee - started the tournament off with a rematch from last year's title game, where Negaunee ousted Gladstone, 3-2.
Negaunee’s Tyler Jandron delivers a warm-up pitch between innings of Friday’s district opener against Gladstone. The Miners fell to the Braves. 4-2. Jandron struck out 13 batters in his final high school game. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Bryce Derouin)
"We said, 'Okay, we're going for one thing, to beat Jandron and Negaunee in the districts,'" Gladstone head coach Don Lauscher said about his team's season-long goal. "That's all we talked about in the gym all winter, and when we started on March 10, that's what we talked about and it happened, so congratulations to our guys."
Playing as the away team in their own venue, Gladstone's lead off man Christian Tackman jump-started the Braves' rally with a single in the games' first at-bat. Hunter Garling followed with a base hit of his own, allowing Tackman to eventually make his way to third base. Tackman would then go on to score off a passed ball, giving Gladstone its first run of the game.
Jake Peterson gave the Braves a two-run lead on an RBI single, scoring Garling to make it 2-0.
"In the past, he pretty much owned us on the mound," Lauscher said about Jandron. "Today, when we got a couple early hits, we knew we could hit him and it just carried us right through."
It wouldn't take Negaunee long to respond with runs of their own. The Miners took advantage of multiple errors by Gladstone to tally two unearned runs and make it a 2-2 game after Negaunee's Eric Lori grounded out, and Jandron scored on a fielder's choice.
After a rocky start, Jandron settled himself down, retiring the next six batters he faced.
"It usually takes Tyler one inning to get going, and after that, he's unreal," Negaunee head coach Mark Hill said. "He pitched a great game today and their balls just fell where they needed them to.
"We just couldn't string out hits (on offense) and they were getting the timely outs and making a play on us. Everything we hit was popped up in the air, right at them."
In the fourth inning, Gladstone manufactured one more rally, but it almost didn't come to fruition. With runners on first and second and with just one out, Lauscher initially thought about laying down a bunt to advance runners.
Groleau recorded an RBI single to right field, which allowed Nick Trudeau - courtesy runner for Tom Bailey - to score from second. Ben Schwalbach advanced to third, and Schwalbach was later driven home on a sacrifice fly by Pouliot, to make it 4-2.
Despite taking the loss, Jandron displayed why he's considered one of the top players in the Upper Peninsula. Besides the two innings where the Braves got to him, the senior looked dominant at times, striking out 13 batters over seven innings, while allowing just five hits and two walks, and the four runs.
"He's had an unreal career," Hill said about Jandron. "Last year downstate, he went out in the regional and mowed down Charlevoix. Over all the years, he's not only been great with his pitching, his fielding and batting averages were also way up there. He's just an all-around player."