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Rallies in the rain: Negaunee pulls out baseball twinbill split with Houghton

Negaunee’s Alex Zampese takes a swing during a high school baseball doubleheader against Houghton in Negaunee on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“I was worried when he told me he couldn’t see and he took his glasses off, but he really commanded the strike zone really well after that.” — Jason Siik, Negaunee manager, on Game 2 pitcher Alex Zampese

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NEGAUNEE — If there’s two words to sum up Wednesday’s doubleheader between Negaunee and Houghton, it would be rain and rallies.

With a drizzle a constant during both games and being under the threat of weather delays, the Miners and Gremlins fought punch for punch all afternoon with each teams earning a comeback victory.

Houghton scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to win the opener 8-7, while Negaunee overcame a 5-0 deficit by scoring nine unanswered runs to win the nightcap 9-5.

“The first game, the kids played well and we came back, but the second game, we just had a little trouble putting two (wins) together,” Gremlins manager Joe Romano. “We were a little lackadaisical defensively, but Kevin (Bostwick) pitched a good game. Our bats cooled off, too.

“They’re (the Miners) a very nice team. They’re well balanced and well coached. To take one game down here, that’s a big accomplishment for us.”

In the first game, Negaunee opened up the scoring with three runs in the top of the first, but Houghton tied it with three runs in its half of the frame, one on a double by Sam Keskimaki off Miners starter Tylor Robinson.

The Gremlins later took the lead with a run in the third when Keskimaki scored on a hit by Brandon Norkol. Houghton had a chance to add another run, but right after Keskimaki crossed home plate, Will Romano was thrown out at home.

The Miners fought back in the fifth, plating four runs. Two came on a single by Alex Munson and later, Carter Richardson scored on a fielder’s choice by Robinson, while Munson came around on a fielder’s choice by Jason Waterman.

Trailing 7-4, the Gremlins got two back in their half of the inning. Keskimaki scored on a hit by Norkol and with Negaunee’s Eric Anderson now pitching, Romano scored on a wild pitch.

After shutting down the Miners in the top of the sixth, Houghton had its last at-bat to try to stay alive and the Gremlins came through. Houghton’s Dylan Horning scored on a passed ball to tie the game 7-7, and one batter later Bostwick scored on a fielder’s choice to win it.

“Our kids don’t quit,” Coach Romano said. “I’ve got seven freshmen, which are led by three great seniors and those seniors are instructing them all the way through to keep rolling. We’ve got a good nucleus for our team.”

Kade Farrell got the win for the Gremlins as he gave up seven runs on four hits with four strikeouts and five walks, while Anderson was dealt the loss after giving up two runs on one hit with two walks in 2/3 of an inning of work.

“The game just kind of slipped away,” Negaunee manager Jason Siik said. “I don’t think we played with a ton of energy the first game. We’ve had quite a few days off from what we’ve been used to, so we were a little flat.

“It’s tough to lose a game that way in the bottom half of an inning. I think that’s the third time this year that we’ve lost in the bottom half of the last inning.”

In the second game, Houghton started off with hot bats again. The Gremlins plated five runs in the first off Negaunee starter Alex Zampese, two on a single by Norkol to take a big early advantage.

Negaunee didn’t go away without a fight, though. The Miners put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first on a two-run double by Munson and another on a fielder’s choice by Robinson.

Down 5-3 in the third, Negaunee got rolling again as Richardson scored on an error and the Miners trailed by just one going into the fourth.

That’s when things really started going the Miners’ way. With one out, Richardson hit a two-run single and that was followed by a two-run double by Munson to the gap in left center. Now leading 8-5, Negaunee got one more run in the inning on an RBI single by Waterman.

“We pulled together and brought some more energy the second game,” Siik said. “It was nice to see. They were stinging the ball and getting good swings. We were patient, waiting on the ball and letting the ball travel.”

Zampese, who bounced back from that rough first inning, continued to keep the Gremlins off the board the rest of the way and the Miners salvaged a split. The impressive thing was that he did it despite not being able to see clearly.

“Alex said he couldn’t see,” Siik said. “He has glasses and he said they were fogging up and he took them off and really beared down. I was worried when he told me he couldn’t see and he took his glasses off, but he really commanded the strike zone really well after that.”

Zampese picked up the win after giving up five runs on four hits with four walks and two strikeouts in five innings. Bostwick was handed the loss for the Gremlins after surrendering nine runs on nine hits with three walks and two strikeouts.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.