MARQUETTE - With his team playing its seventh game in four days, Derek Swajanen was a little concerned with how sharp the Marquette American Legion Blues would be Tuesday night.
"I knew it would be one way or the other," the veteran Blues' manager said. "We'd either be sharp and crisp, or not as crisp and tired."
Swajanen got a little bit of both.
The Blues ground out a 5-2 Mid Pen League victory over the visiting Gladstone Indians at Hayley Memorial Field, sweeping the stretch of games.
Marquette posted just five hits, left six runners on base and committed three errors against Gladstone.
But the Blues ran the basepaths aggressively and made the plays it had to in improving to 18-2 overall and 6-2 in league play.
"We have some veteran leadership and the older players have dragged the younger ones along so far," Swajanen said. "They've done a good job at it.
"We didn't have many cracks (at scoring), but took advantage of them."
The Blues' first three runs were unearned on Gladstone misplays. The first came off a wild throw to first base on an attempted double play, the second on a passed ball and a misplay on a throw to second, and the third on a wild pitch.
"We gave it away," Indians manager Jim Groleau lamented after his club fell to 9-1 overall and 3-1 in league play. "We gave them everything they got tonight."
A major reason, he said, was when his starting first baseman - Hayden Hardwick - had to leave the game in the second inning due to an injury to his left elbow after a collision at the bag.
"That put us into a defensive shift and moved some players out of position," Groleau said. "Playing out of position like that put us behind the 8-ball."
Still, the Indians took a 2-1 lead in the third on a two-run double to center by Paul Tomaesewski that scored Christian Groleau and Justin Jurek.
Groleau had singled and Jurek walked - the only free pass given up by Blues pitcher Nick Kamrada in the game.
But the Blues rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fourth without benefit of a hit to take a 3-2 advantage.
"Our kids don't give up and put a lot of pressure on the other team," Swajanen said.
A key point in the game came in the top of the sixth. A Marquette error and a double by the Indians' Jared Stenson put runners on second and third with one out.
But Jake Pearson popped the ball up on a suicide squeeze attempt that Kamrada lunged to catch. The pitcher then threw to third to double the runner and end the inning.
"When the ball was popped up, Nick made a nice play," Swajanen said. "But our defensive coverage was right there, too."
Groleau said the play wasn't the turning point.
"We were just trying to get back to even," he said. "The turning point was when our first baseman was taken out."
The Blues got some breathing room with two runs in the sixth. Spencer Larson led the way with a leadoff double to left-center and a subsequent steal of third.
"I was looking for a fastball, but the pitch was a knuckleball," said Larson, a fourth-year Blues player who just completed his first season of baseball at St. Norbert College.
"I saw the laces coming at me and the ball was coming in slow. It was a pretty easy pitch to hit.
"I stole on my own," he added. "I had the (pitch) timing down and got a pretty big lead."
Larson scored on a passed ball after a strikeout. A subsequent throw to first on the play was late and another run scored.
"We took advantage of (Gladstone's) mistakes," Swajanen said. "But we were hustling."