Hancock still has Game 2 blues

HANCOCK – The Hancock American Legion Post 186 baseball team has followed a bizarre trend recently, and it continued Sunday afternoon in a home doubleheader against defending Class A state champion Kingsford Post 363.

In its previous three doubleheaders, Hancock had won its first game by mercy rule and lost its second game. Sunday at Hancock Driving Park, Post 186 beat Kingsford 14-4 in six innings in the opener, only to drop the second game 12-3.

“It’s incredible, almost impossible to do,” Hancock manager Nels Paul said. “I don’t know what happens. In this league we’re all so evenly matched, too. Just get a few big hits here and there and things get rolling. We got on a roll the first game. They did in the second game.”

In the second game, Kingsford sent eight men to the plate in the first inning and seven in the second against Hancock hurler Mike Saari, scoring two and three runs, respectively. Post 186 cut its deficit to 6-3 in the fourth inning, and neither team scored in the fifth inning, but the floodgates opened in the sixth inning.

Six straight Kingsford batters reached against Saari and relief pitcher Gabe Rupright, and Austin Murdock, the first batter Rupright faced, drilled a two-run bomb over the left centerfield fence to cap off a six-run inning and the eventual 12-3 win.

Murdock, Kingsford’s clean-up hitter, was 3-for-3 in the game with 3 RBIs, while also tossing seven innings of six-hit ball with five strikeouts. C.J. Qualley and Kyle Abbas also had three hits for the Blues in Game 2.

“It’s amazing how you play when you have a lead. We’re not mature enough yet to handle playing from behind, so we have to get on top and then we’re OK,” Kingsford manager Kevin Murdock said. ” We did not play a good first game, and it was nice to see them bounce back because they have those abilities.”

In the first game, it was Hancock that got the bats rolling early, following an eerily similar scoring pattern as Kingsford in the second game.

Post 186 sent seven men to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and batted all nine in the second, scoring two and four runs, respectively, against Qualley. Kingsford chopped its deficit to 8-4 in the top of the fifth inning, but Hancock’s Dax Durocher launched a grand slam to key a five-run bottom of the fifth. Hancock loaded the bases in the sixth inning and wrapped up the mercy-rule win with a Saari RBI single.

“Dax’s grand slam was sort of a nail in the coffin on that one,” Paul said. ” This is typical of how a game can quickly get out of control. First game, it was for us, got out of control really quick – they made some errors, we capitalized. Second game, same thing for them.”

Tyler LaDuron pitched all six innings for the Game 1 Hancock win, only allowing three hits, despite allowing five walks. He struck out seven, effectively mixing a firm fastball and a hard-breaking curveball.

“The game he pitched is one of the better games I’ve seen this year,” Paul said.

Hancock, which features several 18- and 19-year-old veterans mixed with a handful of 15- and 16-year-old Senior Little Leaguers – and not many in between – moves to 8-8 on the year. Kingsford, which had three regular players either injured or on vacation Sunday, moves to 4-7.