By Journal Sports Staff
GLADWIN - With the exception of catcher Levi Underwood, the Marquette Blues couldn't solve Hudson pitcher Chris Thomsen on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the American Legion Class A state baseball tournament being held in Gladwin.
Underwood collected all three of the Blues' hits, but his teammates went down on strikes 13 times in Hudson's 1-0 victory.
The loss sends Marquette into the loser's bracket of this double-elimination tournament, where the Blues will have to win twice today to stay alive.
At 9 a.m., Marquette was to face the Petoskey Royals, which on Thursday split a pair of games against the other two Upper Peninsula teams in the event, defeating Escanaba and losing to Gladstone.
If the Blues win that morning game, they play again at 3 p.m. against the winner of today's other early game, Escanaba vs. Hudson.
Marquette must win twice more on Saturday and once on Sunday without losing to capture the state title in this six-team tourney.
Blues pitching ace Trevor Bratonia was the hard-luck loser Thursday, as he scattered four singles and three walks while fanning two.
"We knew going in it would be a tough game and (we) couldn't afford to make any mistakes," Marquette manager Derek Swajanen said by email. "Trevor Bratonia threw a heck of a game for us and we just couldn't muster any offense at all. Levi Underwood went 3 for 3, but other than that, we just couldn't seem to make anything happen.
"We had 13 strikeouts today, which is a very rare occurrence for us; in fact, I can't remember that ever happening this year. We usually do a pretty good job of putting the ball in play and forcing the other team to make mistakes."
The game was scoreless through four innings as only three runners combined had reached second base.
Then in the top of the fifth, a leadoff error, sacrifice bunt and wild pitch moved Hudson's Hunter Borton to third. Drew DeFay scored him with a single, though Bratonia stranded runners on second and third to prevent further damage.
The Blues had their best scoring chance in the bottom of the inning, when Underwood led off with his second single, followed by a dropped third-strike wild pitch and hit batsman to load the bases with two out. But Derek Stone, who joined Underwood as the only Marquette batters to not strike out on Thursday, hit a fly ball to center field to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Underwood again led off with a single, and while Ryan Walther's sacrifice moved him to second, a strikeout and ground out ended the game.
Hudson was knocked into the loser's bracket Thursday evening with a 4-1 loss to host Gladwin as Hudson's Cody Nelson took the complete-game loss, allowing seven hits while striking out eight.
On Thursday morning, Escanaba led 4-3 after four innings, but Petoskey scored six runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth for an easy 14-5 win. Esky's Sean Bissell had three hits while Devin Olsen and Justin Popelka combined on the mound for the Cubs as they struck out seven total.
Gladstone's Sam Pouliot then threw a complete-game shutout against Petoskey in the afternoon, striking out eight and giving up four hits as the Indians won 4-0, getting all the offense they needed with three runs in the third.
Gladstone and Petoskey meet in the winner's bracket final at 6 p.m. today. The winner earns a berth in the championship round with those games at 2 p.m. Saturday, and if necessary, at a time to be announced on Sunday.
To follow the tournament online, visit the website gc.com/g/2014Gladwin.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.