ESCANABA – The Escanaba Cubs haven’t won an American Legion state baseball title since the mid-1950s.
After dominating in the Zone 5 tournament over the weekend, they’ll enter the Class A state tournament at home beginning today as the No. 1 overall seed.
“Some teams come out of the gates hot and cool down a few weeks in,” Cubs manager Tom Ohman said. “I always wanted to get hot at the end.
“We’re doing something right. This is our fourth straight year in the state finals and the first three years, we were never above .500. We’re 14-8 coming in this year.”
For Escanaba to end a half-century drought, they’ll likely have to face some familiar foes. The Marquette Blues and Gladstone also qualified out of their zone.
Though Marquette won both regular-season meetings with the Cubs, Escanaba beat Marquette by a combined score of 37-9 in the Zone playoffs.
The Cubs have also beaten Gladstone three times this season, including once during the Zone tournament. However, that concerns Ohman.
“The only troubling factor of the state level is you end up facing teams you’ve already played,” he said. “But Gladstone had to go through us last year and took care of us.
“These are teams we’ll possibly have to play again, and it’s scary. The more you play them, the more the odds are against you. We’ll have to hope the way things play out favors us.”
Also included in the double-elimination tournament is Hudson of the southeast Lower Peninsula, Petoskey, and a sixth team to be named after Gladwin dropped out.
Tournament organizers are in talks with Copper Country to possibly fill the void.
“Even with the politics right now, we’re excited,” Ohman said.
Marquette will play Hudson at 5 p.m. Gladstone will meet Escanaba will play the winner at 8 p.m.
Four games are on tap for Friday and two Saturday, including the championship game at 2 p.m.
An “if necessary” game would be played at noon Sunday if the loser’s bracket team wins the first title contest.
A mixer, as well as a meet-and-greet for all teams and families, begins at 7 p.m. today at the Bowl-A-Rama lanes.
Kids can bowl for two hours for $5 apiece.
Numbers have become an issue for many teams in American Legion baseball this season.
The Cubs haven’t had to cancel a game due to lack of players, but still took the opportunity to boost their roster by adding Junior Cubs Sam Hall and Johnny Schlenvogt.
The two pitchers add to a staff that already includes ace Brandon Punzel, Tyler Skufca, Justin Popelka and Alec Slaga.
“We have pitching now, so even if we ended up in the loser’s bracket, we could probably worm our way out of it,” Ohman said.
“We don’t want to have to do that, though.”
Ohman knows his team isn’t likely to carry over its torrid run production from the Zone tournament, but likes the Cubs’ chances of continuing to play at a high level.
“If we can find a middle ground, I like our chances,” he said.