GLADSTONE - The Gladstone Braves passed their first post-season test Friday, posting an 8-0 baseball triumph over the Superior Central Cougars in a Division 3 district opener.
The victory enables the first-year Braves to host Negaunee in today's championship contest, which begins at 1.
Negaunee, behind the one-hit pitching of Tony Zampese, romped past Pickford-Cedarville 14-1 in six inings in Friday's earlier game.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Blake Ballard of Gladstone connects with the ball after a pitch from Superior Central’s Ian McInnis, Friday, at their district playoff game. Gladstone won 8-0.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Gladstone’s Jake Peterson pitches during the seventh inning of their district playoff game against the Superior Central Cougars, Friday, in Gladstone.
Hunter Garling opened the first inning for Gladstone with a triple along the rightfield line. Moments later, the freshman catcher scored on Justin Jurek's sacrifice fly to center.
The Braves, taking advantage of a walk and two errors, added their second run in the third frame.
Gladstone gained a three-run cushion on Sam Pouliot's double to left in the fourth and raised the count to 4-0 on Tom Bailey's single to center in the fifth.
"We got a couple clutch hits, and a couple sacrifice flys and double steals helped us," said Braves' manager Don Lauscher. "We also had a few (baserunning) miscues. We'll need to clean those up tomorrow."
The Braves (18-9-1) finished the scoring with four runs in the sixth, taking advantage of two more miscues and a passed ball.
Superior Central (3-16) loaded the bases with one out in the first before junior Christian Groleau retired the next two hitters.
"The Superior Central kids swing the bat well," said Lauscher. "Christian kept the ball up in the (strike) zone early and settled down after the first inning."
The Cougars managed three hits off Groleau, who struck out seven and walked none through six innings.
Jake Peterson then took over in the seventh and retired the Cougars in order.
"We had a real good opportunity in the first inning," Cougars' manager Bill Maki said moments after distributing the team's season-ending awards. "I thought we hit better than them in the first few innings. Unfortunately, we didn't get another scoring chance like we did in the first. Give credit to Gladstone. They have a very good team."
Gladstone finished with eight hits, including a pair by senior shortstop Blake Ballard.
Cody Maki, who pitched five innings, absorbed the loss. He fanned two, walked one and allowed four runs on six hits.
"Cody was on today," said manager Maki. "He was right around the plate and changed speeds a lot. Cody probably could have gone another inning, but we didn't want to risk it. His pitch count was high. As a team, I thought we did a lot of good things."
This marked the third time this season the Braves faced Cody Maki and Lauscher said he came away impressed each time.
"Cody does a nice job for them," he added. "He's a quality pitcher. He kept us off balance."
The teams combined for eight errors, four by each squad.