Plenty of room to grow

MARQUETTE – The Marquette Reds truly are a work in progress.

At least their players are after challenging and succumbing to their “older brothers,” the Marquette Blues, 15-3 on Saturday morning at the Gerard Haley Memorial Field in north Marquette.

“This wasn’t bad considering we have a bunch of 14-year-olds, a couple 13-year-olds and a couple of 12-year-olds,” Reds manager Herman Eleby said.

Bench coach Kane Beauchamp agreed.

“We view this as a developmental thing,” Beauchamp said. “We look at this as wanting to be better every day than the day before.

“We preach that when the game is over, it’s done. You move onto the next one.”

He mentioned that current stars on American Legion baseball’s premier team in Marquette, the Blues, were once Reds players.

“We tell them that guys like Trevor Bratonia and Hunter Larson were no bigger than you guys when they were 14 or 15 years old playing for the Reds,” Beauchamp said. “And now they look at them.

“And I say, ‘Yeah, make sure to watch them. Watch them when they’re taking warm-ups and practicing their defensive alignments.’

“If you work hard at it now, it’ll be a lot easier when you’re 16, 17, 18.”

Reds starting pitcher Clay Smith, one of several players who commute each practice and game day from Munising, is looking at that future.

“Hopefully I’ll get to play with the Blues some day,” the lefthander said, indicating he has three pitches – a fastball, change-up and a curve.

“It’s fun to get to play against the big guys.”

Yet this Reds team was able to beat the Gladstone Junior Legion team just a couple weeks ago, a high point for a team used to playing older high school students and even graduates who can be up to 19 years old.

“I saw some good things with their young kids,” long-time Blues manager Derek Swajanen said of Saturday’s game. “It’s just good to see we have two solid teams here in Marquette.”

Saturday gave Swajanen a chance to play all his younger kids as his bench was made up of a half-dozen of this year’s stars – McKinley Larson, Hunter Larson, Brendan Higbie, Brandon Lotterman, Riley Lynch and Sam Leow.

Several of them got into the game as Swajanen trotted out a different pitcher each inning to rest up his staff for this week’s Mid-Pen League playoffs.

Several who started had big games – catcher Zach Carter was 3 for 4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases; second baseman Alec Beauchamp was 2 for 4 with three RBIs; and left fielder and pitcher Steve Snow had just one hit, but scored three runs, and had a sacrifice fly, drew two walks and stole three bases.

Meanwhile, the Reds scored single runs in the first, third and fourth innings and stranded four runners in scoring position.

Their biggest hits were by two substitutes – third baseman Tyler Delmont cracked an RBI double to the fence in left in the third, while 12-year-old second baseman Erik Johnson smacked an RBI single over the first baseman’s head in his only plate appearance in the fourth.

And Johnson keyed a double play in the third when he caught a liner and alertly threw to shortstop Kennan Johnson – his older brother – to double off a runner.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.