Marquette Blues make like hockey namesakes and win American Legion baseball game over Iron Mountain

The Marquette Blues’ Jon Jason, left, rounds third base looking to come home while Iron Mountain’s Zack Spara watches the ball across the field at their American Legion baseball game played Thursday at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — The “Just North of St. Louis” Blues is what the public address announcer at Gerard Haley Memorial Field deemed the Marquette Blues American Legion baseball team between innings on Thursday evening.

Much like its hockey counterparts to the south did on Wednesday night by winning the Stanley Cup, the baseball Blues also earned a win over the visiting Iron Mountain Golds less than 24 hours later.

Getting that win took the full seven innings, however, with Peter VandenAvond hitting a two-out double into the left field gap for a 3-2 walkoff winner.

It was only the third hit of the game for the Blues, who scored Kyle Frusti from third base and improved Marquette to 4-2 on the season.

Marquette manager Derek Swajanen credited VandenAvond for coming through in the clutch after the Blues got two runners on base via a walk and hit batsman, as well as a passed ball that advanced them to second and third.

“We got a guy on, capitalized on a hit-by-pitch, passed ball and then Peter put a good stroke on one,” he said. “It’s always nice to have a walkoff at home. It’s good for the boys.”

The performance was backed by Brendan Kaski, who went the distance on the mound, tossing the full seven frames while allowing just five hits, striking out one and walking one.

“(Brendan) did a great job,” Swajanen said. “He was a little over 90 pitches through the full seven innings, so he was pretty efficient.

“He didn’t really get into any bad streaks where he walked two or three in a row. He went to his off-speed a little bit more in the middle innings and kept them off balance. He did a nice job.”

The Blues’ first two runs came in the first inning. VandenAvond scored on an overthrow at first base after a lineout to Iron Mountain shortstop Brent Amen. Amen attempted to double up the runner at first base but overshot, allowing VandenAvond to score.

Later in the inning, Blake Henriksen came home on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.

The Golds cut the lead in half in the next inning on a base hit to left from Gannon Bray, which scored Bret Turini.

In the same inning, Iron Mountain capitalized on a play which allowed Caleb Johnson to score from third. In a confusing sequence, Blues first baseman Hogan Nemetz didn’t see Johnson darting for home and didn’t attempt a throw, tying the game 2-2.

The middle innings remained uneventful, with several fly outs and ground outs to boot.

The Blues had a chance to retake the lead in the sixth after Henriksen was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a no-throw with one out. Hunter Doucette and Jon Jason both popped out to right to end the threat, however.

The Golds also had their chance in the top of the seventh after a two-out walk for Bray. Isaac Ray was unable to hit him home, flying out to center to end the inning.

Marquette had its first base runner of the seventh after Holden Shaneberger drew a walk. Frusti entered the game as a pinch runner for him.

After a strikeout by Nemetz, Connor Steer was hit by a pitch to put two on with one out.

Jake Allard-Soucey went down swinging after that, before VandenAvond cranked his double to left to win it.

VandenAvond led the Blues, going 2 for 4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. Nemetz finished the night 1 for 2.

Iron Mountain was led by Bray, who went 1 for 2 with an RBI and a walk.

On the mound, the Golds went through four pitchers who combined to allow just three Marquette hits, seven strikeouts and two walks. Payton Thompson was tagged with the loss, going the final 1 1/3 innings and allowing one run on one hit as he struck out one and walked one.

The Blues travel to the Rhinelander, Wisconsin, this weekend for the Rhinelander Rebels Invitational.

Today’s game will be against host Rhinelander at 9 p.m. EDT, with the familiar Copper Country Falmes and Clintonville, Wisconsin, providing opposition Saturday and Everest, Wisconsin, on Sunday. The Blues would play a fifth game if they reach the championship.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.