Escanaba sweeps IM in season opening twinbill

Iron Mountain’s Caleb Johnson, center, throws to first base alongside teammate Blake Julian to get out Escanaba’s Collin Arat on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Escanaba won the Upper Peninsula’s first baseball action of the season, beating Iron Mountain 11-4 and 8-7 on Monday.

The Eskymos (3-2) scored in each of the last six innings to put away the Mountaineers in the first game. Iron Mountain, down 8-2 in the seventh inning of the second game, made things interesting with a five-run rally. Escanaba made four defensive errors late in the game, perhaps owing partly to dwindling light conditions. With the tying run at first base, the game was finally called for darkness at about 7:45 p.m. CDT.

Down 3-0 in the third, Iron Mountain (0-2) loaded the bases with one out in the first game. Bryce Pietrantonio hit a line drive caught by Escanaba first baseman Jake Anderson, who spun around and tagged CJ Bolo as he tried to scramble back to first base for a double play.

Escanaba took that momentum and scored three runs in the next half-inning before adding two in the fifth and three in the sixth to seal the game.

“The key to that game was the line drive to first and our first baseman Jake Anderson with a diving stop and a tag. They could’ve broke it open right there,” Escanaba head coach Scott Hanson said. “He had the diving stop and the wherewithal to get up and get the double play on a pretty darn athletic kid (CJ Bolo). It was a pretty athletic play to make that. That was the key to the game. I think momentum swung our way. It was still a pretty close game at that point.”

Escanaba first baseman Jake Anderson tries to tag Iron Mountain’s Ian Anderson on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Escanaba’s Tyler Lawson doubled and walked. Grant LaMarche, Zeke Strand, Jared Hanson and Jake LaFave had hits.

Grant LaMarche pitched for Escanaba. He gave up four runs on three hits with six walks and four strikeouts.

Blake Julian, Caleb Johnson, Charlie Gerhard and Caleb Evosevich-Hynes pitched for Iron Mountain. They gave up a combined 11 runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and 10 walks.

“The boys’ first outing on the field, the boys hit well. We had a couple too many errors,” Iron Mountain co-head coach Paul Julian said. “Overall we had pretty good offense and defense. We were just hitting it in all the wrong places. We weren’t hitting any gaps. Overall I’m happy with the performance. I’m happy we almost came back at the end and won the second game. It’s taught us all a lot about what we want to do on the season and we’re going to grow from it.”

Iron Mountain’s other co-head coach Ed Felten said the pitching burden was spread out to keep pitchers below pitch count thresholds that would otherwise require days of rest. With the Mountaineers playing Norway today, L’Anse on Thursday and hosting Negaunee on Monday, Felten said the goal Monday was to keep all pitchers available.

“I’m very happy with our pitching staff. They came to play and were throwing strikes for the most part,” Felten said. “We got ground balls. There was timely hitting. In the first game we only had two strikeouts. There was a line drive that was caught that changed the game.”

SECOND GAME

Both teams remained tied 2-2 in the second game until the Eskymos’ six-run outburst in the top of the fifth. A towering two-run home run by Austin Willette hugged the right-field foul pole.

“I think that’s his first home run at the varsity level. That’s big for him. He’s a big, strong kid. I’m happy for him,” Coach Hanson said. “I don’t think he expected it to go out. I think he expected it to go foul. As a team we had maybe two home runs last year. We do a lot of small ball too because we don’t get a lot of three-run homers. Hopefully we can get a few of those but we definitely try to move runners with the bunt.”

Iron Mountain’s CJ Bolo hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first that gave the Mountaineers the lead until Escanaba tied it in the third. Bolo’s low line drive cleared the left-center fence and scored Julian.

It was the only offensive action by the Mountaineers as they went down one-two-three in three of the next four innings. With the light fading quickly and temperatures dropping, Iron Mountain staged a last-ditch comeback that almost tied the game in the sixth.

After a groundout to start the inning, the Eskymos made four errors to load the bases and spot three runs. A groundout scored a run and a past ball scored another. Another error put a runner at first and then the game was called off due to darkness.

Jared Hanson pitched for Escanaba. He gave up seven runs on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

Iron Mountain’s Brent Aman, Will Strand and Gavin Goulette pitched. They gave up a combined eight runs on nine hits with two strikeouts and no walks.

The early-season games gave both coaching staffs opportunities to see their teams’ makeup. Like every UP team in April, it was also a spring cleaning day to shake out the baseball cobwebs formed after a long winter.

“Knocking the rust off, taking a look and seeing what it takes to grow,” Coach Julian said. “Seeing different players in positions. It’s growing pains and we’re going to be a good team this season, so I’m not worried about it. Just something to take mental notes to put in our lineup and go after all the wins.”

Evosevich-Hynes was ejected in the second inning after striking out. He will be available to play today.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

The baseball field was dry except for spots in the outfield and foul territory along the fences. A crowd tip-toed around thick mud and snow patches to claim a spot in the bleachers or along the fence. Norway-based Beck’s Ornamental & Turf Management spread Turface field conditioner around the infield dirt within a half hour of first pitch. On Sunday, the Mountaineers’ baseball team shoveled thicker snow patches off the field for about four hours.

“First of all a huge thank you to Iron Mountain. I’ve been texting Paul over the last several days. For them to even have the field ready to play, it’s absolutely huge,” Hanson said. “I’m sure we’re the only ones in the UP playing today. Regardless of what happened, it was good to be playing baseball. Honestly the field’s in really good shape other than a little bit of water on the side. They’ve done a great job on the field.”

UP NEXT

Iron Mountain hosts Norway in a doubleheader today. The games were originally scheduled to be played at Marion Park in Norway, but field conditions there are still poor.

Escanaba visits Appleton North High School for a Saturday doubleheader.

Game 1

Escanaba 012 323 — 11 7 3

Iron Mountain 000 121 — 4 3 2

Game 2

Escanaba 002 060 — 8 9 5

Iron Mountain 200 005 — 7 3 2

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