MARQUETTE – Down and seemingly out, the Marquette Blues pulled out an improbable 6-5 nine-inning win over visiting Kingsford on Thursday night in the opening game of the season for both American Legion baseball clubs.
Riley Lynch smacked a three-run double in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings, then Hunter Larson singled to right for the walk-off RBI in the bottom of the ninth.
“This team just has some great athletes,” longtime Blues manager Derek Swajanen said. “I’m real proud of the way they came back and played solid baseball.
“We made a couple mental mistakes, but it was the first game of the year. When you get barrels on the ball, good things are going to happen.”
The Blues trailed 5-0 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh – the final regulation inning – with runners on first and second.
A walk to Zac Carter filled the bases, then Brendan Higbie drew a bases-loaded walk from Kingsford starter Brock Grenier, who had dominated the Blues to that point.
Larson hit an infield single to bring in another run and make it 5-2 still with the bases loaded. Then Lynch lined a ball to center that skipped away from the Kingsford center fielder to clear the bases and tie the game.
“I was looking for a strike and didn’t want to make a mistake,” said Lynch, who earned the pitching win in relief. “I hit a fastball low, right where I wanted it.
“I’m very excited about it. It’s a great way to start the season.”
The Marquette rally spoiled a strong mound performance by Grenier. He allowed just five hits and five walks – three in the seventh – while striking out 15.
“It’s very seldom you see a pitcher strike out 15 and not get a win,” Kingsford manager John Linn said. “Maybe I left him in too long. But he’s a gamer and battled hard.
“He threw a gem. He’s so in control and his location is so good.
“But that’s baseball. It’s a funny game. We played great for 6 1/3 innings, but … I’m still proud of the guys.”
Kingsford scored a run in the fourth on a wild pickoff throw to third by Marquette catcher Sam Leow, then broke the game open with a three-run sixth.
RBI doubles by Grenier and Anthony Ribera off Marquette starter McKinley Larson – who fanned seven – and a passed ball brought in the runs.
A triple by Sam Santi in the seventh, followed by a wild pitch, made it 5-0 and set the stage for the Marquette rally that sent the game into extras.
A fly to center in heavy fog by Jay Oberg that the Kingsford fielder dropped started the winning surge.
“Balls that were up the fielders had a hard time seeing,” Linn said.
An error put runners on first and third in the ninth when Hunter Larson stroked the walk-off, game-winning single in a contest the umpires had decided to limit to nine innings due to fog and darkness regardless of what happened that inning.
Lynch got the mound win. In three innings, he allowed one hit and a walk while fanning eight.
“Riley was phenomenal in relief,” Swajanen said. “Our pitchers came up with a lot of huge strikeouts (when we needed) them.”
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.