Blues suffer pounding in Zones

MENOMINEE – The Escanaba Cubs couldn’t have had a more impressive start to the postseason.

With an offensive explosion, the Cubs beat Kingsford 7-1 and Marquette 21-3 at the American Legion Zone 5 Tournament at Spies Field in Menominee on Thursday.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” assistant manager Jon Bintner said of the Cubs’ hot bats. “I think they’ve been bottling it up, but it’s about time they let it loose.

“I think they were a little more patient, whereas before, they were maybe forcing the issue a little bit.”

With the two victories, Escanaba advances in the winners bracket and will play Gladstone at 5 p.m. today.

The winner will advance to the championship game on Saturday.

In the first game against Kingsford, Cubs’ pitcher Brandon Punzel had a solid outing on the mound, throwing a complete game and striking out nine. He gave up six hits, one unearned run, and three walks.

At the plate, Tyler Skufca went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Jack Valentine an Parker Lamarch were each 2-for-4, and Sean Bissell had a 2-RBI single.

For Kingsford, John Edwardsen had two hits. Brett Swanson absorbed the loss on the mound.

In the second game of the day against Marquette, the Cubs pounced on starting pitcher Trevor Bratonia, lighting him and the Blues’ relief pitching for 14 hits and a flurry of walks.

Skufca continued his stellar day at the plate, going 4 for 4 with four RBIs, and also drawing a walk and a hit-by-pitch.

Tyler Hardwick was 3 for 5 with a double, Logan Lamb was 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs, Valentine had a 3-RBI double with the bases loaded.

Bissell had an RBI double and scored five runs, drawing three walks.

Skufca threw a complete game on the mound, allowing six hits, three walks, and two earned runs, while striking out five.

“There were a lot of walks, and that helps when you can get a couple clutch hits,” Bintner said.

“Marquette had a lot of mental errors, and you put on top of that, Tyler throwing a good game, and their guy laboring every inning, it gets tough on a team mentally.”

Entering the tournament, Marquette had by far the best record of the six teams at 25-8.

“I easily would have said that Marquette was the favorite,” said Bintner. “They have the deepest pitching staff, they’re up there in hitting, so to have a game like that against them, it catches you by surprise.”

Gladstone also had a smashing postseason debut, routing Copper Country 15-1, and Menominee 9-1.

The two rivals will face off at 5 p.m. today, with the winner advancing to the title game on Saturday.

Both teams will now qualify for the Class A State Tournament in Escanaba next week.

Escanaba has an automatic bid as they are the host team.