By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - Leaning on its defense and then taking advantage of a couple of infield miscues by Marquette, Kingsford rallied for a 3-2 walk-off American Legion baseball win Tuesday evening at Lodal Park's Spigarelli Field.
Theresa Proudfit/The Daily News Photo
Marquette’s Ryan Hanson is forced out at second by Kingsford’s C.J. Qualley during Tuesday’s American Legion baseball game.
"I thought our defense just played an excellent game," Blues manager Kevin Murdock said.
Austin Murdock delivered the game's deciding play, sending a two-out chopper to shortstop that was mishandled, allowing C.J. Qualley to race in from third with the winning run.
Qualley reached with one out in the inning when he swatted a single to right. He stole second during the next at-bat and moved to third with two out when Cole Tengesdahl reached on a grounder to the right side.
While Tengesdahl's speed down the line was going to make it a close play for Marquette's first baseman who had to retreat deep behind the bag to field the ball, a fumble on the pick-up allowed Tengesdahl to reach without a challenge, extending the inning for Murdock.
Murdock already had three hits ahead of his final plate appearance. He singled and scored the game's first run on a wild pitch in the second, and he put the Blues up 2-0 an inning later with a sharp line-drive single to left after an error extended that inning.
Murdock added a lead-off double to the gap in left center in the sixth. He also threw out a runner trying to steal in the third.
"The one kid you can't afford to let get to you is Murdock," Marquette manager Derek Swajanen said. "And he had a hand in all the scoring."
In the sixth, Murdock tagged out Marquette's best chance to take the lead. A liner down the left field line by Luke Swajanen had Colton Wiggins attempting to race home from second. Wes Paupore came up firing to cut-off man Aidan Wienke, who spun and quickly relayed a perfect strike to Murdock who denied access to the plate and applied the tag.
With Swajanen reaching second on the play, the threat wasn't completely over, but relief pitcher Cole Michaud reached up to snag a rocket line-drive destined for center field to end the inning.
Michaud, who entered in the fifth, earned the win. He left the bases loaded in the fifth by striking out the only batter he saw, and then limited the Blues to three hits the rest of the way.
Wienke cruised through the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Three consecutive singles by Derek Stone, Ryan Walther and Hunter Larson turned Kingsford's 2-0 advantage into a tie game.
Wienke allowed six hits while striking out three and walking three.
"Aidan is pitching great for us," Murdock said. "Cole came in, in a great relief role, did an awesome job. He really bounced back after his last outing so I am really happy for him."
Brandon Kowalkowski and Paupore added singles for Kingsford.
Marquette's Larson had a three-hit day, including his RBI in the fifth, Wiggins hit a double to get things going in Marquette's sixth. Ryan Hanson, Mackinley Larson and Trevor Bratonia all had singles.
Mackinley Larson took the loss in a complete-game effort.
"He did a nice job," Swajanen said. "He was able to keep his pitch count low."
None of Kingsford's runs were earned.
"An easy ground ball we should have had, a guy thrown out at the plate, it could have easily been 3-2 to the other way," Swajanen said.
Marquette dropped to 16-9, while Kingsford improved to 5-6.
Kingsford remains home for the duration of the week, hosting Mid-County Thursday before playing a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday.
Marquette000 020 0 - 2 10 3
Kingsford011 000 1 - 3 6 0