Zone 5 champions: Opportunistic Marquette Blues reel off 5 straight wins after opening loss Thursday
ESCANABA — After a loss to one of the host teams on Thursday evening, the Marquette Blues roared back to win five straight games and capture the American Legion baseball Zone 5 championship on Sunday afternoon.
That included a 13-2 blowout of Eastern Upper Peninsula in the semifinals on Sunday morning and a decisive 6-1 victory over Menominee in the championship game that afternoon.
Maybe the Blues (21-7) didn’t feel the pressure of having to win, since the Class A state tournament will be played in Marquette starting Thursday, with the Blues getting the host’s spot.
As it was, two other teams from Zone 5, one definitely Menominee, also advance to the state tourney. The other was likely to come from a third-place game that was to be played Sunday afternoon.
Following a tough 1-0 loss to Escanaba on Thursday, the Blues defeated Copper Country 8-0 and Bark River 14-2 on Friday.
In their only game Saturday, Marquette felled Negaunee 14-0 in five innings to record a 3-1 pool play record.
Other teams in the event included Gladstone and Dickinson County, which eventually was disqualified for using an ineligible player.
Here is a roundup of Blues’ games starting with the championship game and working back to late Friday:
Marquette 6, Menominee 1
On Sunday afternoon in the championship game at Gladstone, the Blues’ Dakota Maki took care of his end of the bargain in this pitchers’ duel that saw just seven hits between the teams.
He allowed four singles that gave his team a chance to open a 6-0 lead by the end of the second inning. The Marquette pitcher didn’t give up a walk while striking out eight.
The Blues took advantage of seven walks issued in the first two innings by Maroons’ hurler Prestin Burnette, who took the loss.
Despite having a runner thrown out at second base in the second inning, Marquette used five walks to first force in a run, then set up Hogan Nemetz to clear the loaded bases with a three-run double that all but put the game out of reach.
The Blues got on the scoreboard with two runs in the opening inning on a pair of walks, a steal by Peter VandenAvond and a passed ball that set up a sacrifice fly by Jakob Peterson and run-scoring single by Maki.
Menominee got its only run in the fifth off two errors and a single. Dakota Maki ended that rally by inducing an infield popup.
Marquette 13, Eastern U.P. 2
On Sunday in the semifinals at Escanaba, the Blues broke open a close game and turned it instead into a mercy-rule contest by scoring nine runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings.
Marquette played small ball in the fifth, using two singles, two walks, a hit batsman, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch to score four runs. Erik Johnson had an RBI single, Peterson a sac fly and VandenAvond an RBI when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The Blues did it the more traditional way in the sixth, using RBI doubles by VandenAvond, Brock Taylor and Hayden Rockhill and run-producing singles by Peterson and Justin Wenk that turned a narrow 4-2 lead two innings earlier into a 13-2 bulge.
Justin Wenk and the Makis — Dakota and Parker — pitched well enough for Marquette to keep the Wood Ducks at bay. Wenk got the win, going two innings and allowing two runs on five hits and two walks as he struck out one.
The Makis combined for the final four innings, between them not allowing a run on two hits, no walks and three K’s.
VandenAvond had the most interesting batting line, going 2 for 2 but with four runs scored and three RBIs as he was twice hit by a pitch and had a sacrifice fly and stolen base.
Taylor was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, a run and a walk, while Peterson was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, a sac fly and a hit-by-pitch.
Meanwhile, Nemetz went 2 for 5 with an RBI, while Rockhill was 1 for 3 with an RBI, two runs and walk, and Johnson was 1 for 3 with an RBI, two walks and a steal.
Marquette 14, Negaunee 0
In pool play on Saturday in Escanaba, the Blues built a quick 10-0 lead by the middle of the second inning by using 11 walks and two hit batsmen to go with 10 hits.
Four Marquette batters each collected two hits — Peterson was 2 for 3 with a double, two RBIs, three runs scored, a walk and steal; Johnson also was 2 of 3 with a double and three runs as he drew two walks; Nemetz was 2 of 2 with three RBIs, two runs and two walks; and Parker Maki was 2 of 3 with a run and walk.
In addition, Taylor doubled, knocked in two runs, scored once and had a walk and steal, while Dakota Maki was 1 for 1, scoring twice and getting two steals and a walk.
That made a winner of Nemetz on the mound in this five-inning game as he scattered two hits and one walk while striking out 13. That included eight consecutive K’s after he allowed the Diamonds’ very first batter, A.J. Bottari, to single in the opening inning.
Negaunee starter Luke Kostreva was tagged with the loss despite having his team’s only extra-base hit, a double in the fourth inning. Kostreva gave up 10 runs on just five hits with six walks in only one inning.
Keith Juidici went the final four innings for the Diamonds, allowing four runs — all unearned — on five hits and five walks as he fanned nine.
In pool play on Friday night in Escanaba, the Blues’ batters again proved patience pays off, combining their six hits with 10 walks and three errors to end the game after five innings.
That made a winner of Rockhill, who went all five innings on the mound, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks as he fanned five.
Marquette jumped out right away, scoring eight runs in the top of the first, keyed by a two-run single by Nemetz, RBI double by Taylor, RBI single by Peterson and bases-loaded walk drawn by Johnson.
Dakota Maki finished 2 of 4 with a double, three RBIs and a run, while Peterson singled, knocked in two runs and had a sacrifice fly and sac bunt. Meanwhile, VandenAvond had his second straight hitless game while scoring a total of five runs in those games, three vs. Bark River as he drew two walks and had a sac bunt and steal.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.