Hancock Legion splits openers with Marquette

MARQUETTE – Whether they’re limber enough to do it, the Marquette Blues American Legion Post 44 baseball team is getting used to doing the splits.

Splits as in a win and a loss in their doubleheaders, as they did on Saturday at home against Hancock.

For manager Derek Swajanen and his youthful squad, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“We’re a really young team and if we can just basically learn the fundamentals and learn for the first 20 games of the year with a lot of new faces, we’ll be fine,” Swajanen said. “A split with both of these teams we’ve played, I feel really comfortable with that.”

The Blues (2-2) dropped the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Post 186, 8-1, but like last week, bounced back in the second game, winning 11-7 on chilly day at Gerard Haley Memorial Field in north Marquette not far from Lake Superior.

After their bats were stifled in the first game against Tyler LaDuron, the Blues wasted little time getting into a hitting rhythm in the second game, jumping out to a 4-0 first-inning lead and forcing Hancock to turn to the bullpen early.

Hancock’s bats responded in the second inning, first scoring on an outfield error and tacking on three more runs to knot the game at 4-4 after two innings.

But the Blues answered right back in the bottom half of the inning, capped off by an RBI double from McKinley Larson to take a 7-4 lead.

The Blues continued to give their pitching staff support as Hunter Larson ripped an RBI double and Ryan Walther connected on a RBI single in the third, putting the home team up 9-4.

“The first game we had a hard time hitting the ball,” O’Neal said. “They had a really good pitcher on the mound. But in the second game, we did all the things right, we did everything we could. The defense was there, the offense was obviously there and the pitchers threw strikes.”

That offense added even more cushion in the fourth as Sam Leow drilled an RBI triple to put the Blues up 10-4.

After Hancock scored twice in the fifth inning, the Blues brought in Ryan Hansen to end the rally by catching a line drive and doubling up a Hancock runner at second base.

Post 186 threatened again in the top of the seventh inning, loading the bases with no outs but were unable to capitalize, only scoring one run as the Blues held on.

Swajanen said he was happy with the way his team responded in the second game but noted the importance of the opening loss.

“The first pitcher that we saw, Tyler (LaDuron), is probably one of the best pitchers we’ll see all year long,” he said. “I told the guys it’s going to have to be a 2-1 game and we did a nice job. We learned, we saw him pitch and now the kids know what they have to do to be better.

“We’re a really young team and obviously they’re giving everything they’ve got and they’re learning, and with a split today that is a really good win.”

Hancock’s next scheduled game – weather permitting – comes May 18, once again taking on the Blues.