MARQUETTE - The Marquette Blues American Legion baseball team nearly took the Ishpeming Blue Storm for a walk in the park on Thursday.
The Blues handed the Storm six free bases at key moments, but erupted for eight runs in the bottom half of the sixth inning to win their annual Fourth of July game at Haley Memorial Field, 11-3.
It's the 10th win of the season for Marquette in Mid-Pen League play, but manager Derek Swajanen said won't remember this Independence Day triumph for the sixth-inning fireworks. Instead, he'll be hearing himself yell over and over again to his team, "You can't defend walks."
The Marquette Blues' Hunter Larson makes contact in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Ishpeming Blue Storm during the program's annual Fourth of July game on Thursday, July 4, 2013, at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Wellens)
Ishpeming's Jake Richards pitches in the third inning against the Marquette Blues during the Blues' annual Fourth of July game on Thursday, July 4, 2013, at Haley Memorial Field in Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Wellens)
"Ishpeming did a great job," Swajanen said. "We know if we can hang in there, eventually the big boys are going to start hitting. That's what happened, finally."
Jake Richards went all seven innings on the mound for Ishpeming, giving up 12 hits, 11 runs - 10 earned - and two walks. He struck out five Blues.
Blues' pitcher Ryan Hanson got the start and the win by giving up no hits, two unearned runs and five walks. He struck out three over four innings.
Marquette Blues 11, Ishpeming Blue Storm 3
R H E
Ishpeming 001 100 1 - 3 2 1
Marquette 030 008 x - 11 12 4
WP: Ryan Hanson, 4 IP, 2 R, 0 H, 3 K, 5 BB
LP: Jake Richards, 6 IP, 11 R, 12 H, 5 K, 2 BB
Ishpeming: Gunnar Meyer, RBI; Jacob Finnegan, 1-4, RBI; Drew Corkin, RBI.
Marquette: Hunter Larson, 2-3, 4 RBI; Ryan Hanson, 2-4, RBI; McKinley Larson, 2-4, 3 RBI, 2B; Colton Wiggins, 2-4; Levi Underwood, 2-3, 2 2B; Riley Lynch, RBI; Ryan Walther, 1-4, RBI, 2B; Sam Leow, RBI.
The Blues' Trevor Bratonia came on in relief in the fifth and finished with five strikeouts after surrendering two hits, one unearned run and one walk.
In addition to giving up key walks that led to runs, both Blues' pitchers were hindered by two errors by the fielders behind them as well.
"We have to get ahead of the hitters," Swajanen said. "We have to get ahead of them. A good fastball, outside corner - that's your best pitch to start out with instead of curve balls or offspeed or anything else like that. Then from there once you get up 0-2, 1-2, then you can work on other pitches. We've just had way too many walks this year and hopefully we can concentrate going down the stretch and work some of those kinks out."
Marquette broke open a tight 3-2 game in the sixth inning via a one-out, two-RBI single by shortstop Hunter Larson.
Blues' left fielder McKinley Larson had a three-RBI double in the sixth and center fielder Ryan Walther followed on the next at bat with an RBI double to push the lead to 10-2 with still one out.
The Blues' final run of the morning came via an error at short, which doubled the frustration of Storm manager Brian Fisher, who watched Marquette score a run earlier in the inning via a fielder's choice when the throw went home - late - instead of to first base for an easy second out.
"We played real well through five, but for some reason, Ishpeming can't get past that sixth inning this year," Fisher said. "We're in every one of our games and we get to the sixth inning and it just goes to crap, honestly.
"We made some bad decisions where we should have tried to turn a double play instead of going home. On the (final) play, the shortstop was coming in on a soft ground ball. He should have went to first, but he turned to go to second.
"Just a few mental lapses and that's what took us out of the game."
The Blues posted a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second via a two-RBI single by Hunter Larson and sacrifice fly by first baseman Riley Lynch.
Ishpeming used a leadoff walk to right fielder Tristan Vitale and sacrifice RBI by center fielder Gunnar Meyer to get on the board in the third inning.
Hanson's third leadoff walk in three innings, this time to Storm catcher Josh Richards, led to another run in the fourth inning when Richards scored on a fielder's choice by second baseman Drew Corkin.
The Storm added another run in the top of the seventh when Corkin reached on an error, got to second base on a walk, stole third base and was driven home on a single by left fielder Jacob Finnegan.
"It's a good win to have," Swajanen said. "It was nice to get some runs toward the end of the game. Overall it was good. Anytime you get a win on the Fourth of July, it's a good day."