Blues a win away from state tourney

By Journal Sports Staff

ESCANABA — The Marquette Blues are one win away from a trip to the American Legion Class A state tournament.

And that’s even though the Blues will have to win two games today to capture the Zone 5 title.

Marquette breezed into the zone semifinals with a pair of wins Friday, beating the Copper Country Flames 7-4 and Iron Mountain Gold 13-2.

That gives the Blues a 3-0 record in pool play and the top spot in their “Escanaba” Division after they defeated the host Cubs 4-0 on Thursday.

Marquette only needs one win today to become a state tournament qualifier because two Upper Peninsula teams from this event will qualify — the two teams that win today’s noon-time semifinals and reach the championship contest.

Marquette faces Gladstone Division runner-up Menominee at noon in Escanaba in one semi, with Gladstone facing the Copper Country Flames at 11:30 a.m. in the other, according to reports from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Negaunee was eliminated after winning once in three games in the Gladstone Division on Thursday and Friday. The Diamonds defeated Bark River 5-3 Friday after suffering losses to Gladstone on Thursday and Menominee on Friday.

The Blues’ three wins at the zones are just part of a larger winning streak the team has been on.

“Ever since the Antigo Tournament when we had a long conversation after we lost twice in one day there, we’ve just been rolling,” Swajanen said about the first day of a Wisconsin tourney on July 6.

“I think that’s the last nine in a row we’ve won. But we’re telling the guys to take the attitude that we’re 0-0.”

The Blues (20-12) had good enough pitching the past two days that they’ve been able to rest pitching ace Blake Henriksen for today’s semis.

“Our pitchers did an outstanding job,” Swajanen said. “We gave up six runs today in two games to two quality teams. They were very efficient.”

Efficient enough that one pitcher got credit for both of Friday’s wins — Kyle Frusti.

He came on in relief of starter Jon Jason in the game vs. CC, throwing 1 2/3 innings of shutout and hitless ball to allow his team to break a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the sixth with the game’s final three runs.

Then he started and pitched 4 1/3 innings of three-hit ball vs. IM, with the game ending after five innings due to the 10-run rule.

In the day’s first game against CC, Marquette broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the bottom of third, keyed by Frusti lacing a two-out, two-run single.

But the Flames crept back and tied it 4-4 in the top of the sixth.

The Blues responded again with their second three-run rally in the bottom of the inning, keyed by pinch hitter Connor Steer’s two-out, two-run single. He later scored for an insurance run.

While Swajanen kept Henriksen off the pitcher’s mound, he did star at the plate, getting a single, knocking in two runs and scoring two himself. He also stole two bases.

Peter VandenAvond had a double in two at-bats, scoring a run, drawing a walk, getting hit by a pitch and stealing a base.

Frusti, Jason, Steer, Brendan Kaski and Jacob Allard-Soucey each had a single, with Frusti finishing with three RBIs.

The Blues literally ran wild against Iron Mountain, stealing 15 bases with Kaski making three swipes.

He finished with a single in his only official at-bat but scored twice while drawing a walk and laying down a sacrifice bunt.

VandenAvond and Jakob Peterson each had two single, both knocking in one run as VandenAvond scored once and Peterson twice. Each also stole two bases as Peterson was also hit by a pitch.

Frusti was 1 for 2 with his team’s only double as he had one RBI and two runs scored while drawing two walaks and stealing two bases.

Henriksen also scored twice with one hit, one hit by pitch and two steals.

Nemetz recorded the game’s final two outs with a strikeout but no hits nor walks allowed.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.