Gladstone wins 5 straight to capture Legion ‘A’ state title

GLADWIN — The Gladstone Indians American Legion baseball team sure knows how to win a state championship.

The Indians beat the odds, reeling off five straight wins out of the loser’s bracket of this double-elimination tournament and then defeated Menominee 15-2 Sunday in the Class A title game.

Menominee shut out Gladstone 2-0 in Thursday’s opener before the Indians had to defeat Menominee in back-to-back games among their five straight wins to bring home the championship trophy in the event held in Gladwin.

Gladstone (25-7) captured its second state title in three years, following up its win over Escanaba in 2014.

“Our team showed a lot of character by bouncing back the way they did to make it through the tournament,” Gladstone head coach Justin Jurek said. “I think it showed what kind of team we had to fight through the loser’s bracket.

“I think the first (Menominee) game kind of woke us up a bit and the guys realized the bats had to come alive.”

Ben Schwalbach’s bat certainly came alive. Schwalbach, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, collected three hits including a two-run homer and four RBIs in Sunday’s finale.

“With baseball, anyone can win on any given day,” Schwalbach said. “It showed in our first game. The first game we got upset by Menominee and came back and beat them twice. We had hot bats all year. The rest of the tournament we definitely turned it on.”

On Friday, Gladstone beat Copper Country 8-0 and topped defending state champion Hudson 10-6.

Then on Saturday, the Indians eliminated Gaylord 6-2 and downed Menominee 9-6 in the first championship game to earn a spot in Sunday’s “if necessary” finale.

In Sunday’s title game, Gladstone starting pitcher Ian Schwalbach and relievers Zach Hanson, Noah Olsen and Ben Schwalbach combined duties on the mound and limited Menominee to one hit. Hanson put in the most work, throwing four innings and only the hit while striking out two.

Gladstone put an exclamation point on the title with a six-run seventh.

Hunter Garling belted a two-run homer with four RBIs in all and Braeden Lamberg and Jack Stephenson each added two hits each for Gladstone.

In Saturday’s Gaylord contest, Tyson Seymour pitched a complete game with a seven-hitter and two strikeouts.

In Saturday’s Menominee game, Owen Hanson launched a game-winning three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to beat the Red Wave. He also pitched a complete game with a six-hitter and six strikeouts.

The Indians were welcomed home Sunday night with an escort from police and fire vehicles for a small parade through downtown Gladstone.