GLADSTONE -A hard extra innings loss to Munising must seem a long way away now for the Gladstone Major boys (age 11-12) Little League All-Stars. Since falling to the loser's bracket on the first day of the area tournament, Gladstone has been unstoppable.
It all culminated Tuesday as Gladstone mercied Tri-County 10-0 over four innings to advance to the district finals.
It was the way Gladstone dismantled its opponents that raised eyebrows however. After falling to Munising 7-5 over nine innings in the tournament opener, Gladstone won its next three games by a combined score of 42-1.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Gladstone’s Jacob Viau slides into second base, completing the steal as Tri County second baseman Beau Rondeau and shortstop Cameron Johnson wait for the throw Tuesday at Howes Field in Gladstone.
The team will now open the district finals against Norway, Friday at 4 p.m.
"The boys are playing well," said Gladstone manager Mike Martin. "Munising is tough. They're a strong team and they gave us a run for our money, but hopefully we'll see them again, further along in the tournament. We've played well."
It was outstanding pitching from Gladstone that stifled Munising until Gladstone's bats really heated up in the fourth inning. Ben Kelly pitched 3.1 innings and struck out eight out of 14 batters he faced. He allowed three hits and walked none. On top of that, Kelly went 3-for-3 at the plate, including a triple and two RBIs. Could it have gotten any better?
"I might not have let those hits go by," Kelly acknowledged. "But it was a good game through and through."
As they have done throughout the last three games, Gladstone struck early, grabbing a 2-0 lead after the first inning. They carried a 4-0 lead into the fourth before erupting for six more runs, four of them coming with two outs. That's when Cooper Cavadeas launched a two-run homer that put an exclamation point on Gladstone's run. He raised his arms in celebration as he rounded the bases with a huge grin on his face.
"I thought it was going to hit the fence," he said. "But it was just luck.
"I was watching it the whole way," he added,
Daniel Martin was 2-for-2 with a walk and an RBI triple and Ethan Nelso went 2-for-3 with an RBI single.
Tri-County was plagued by a few fielding errors and a passed ball that led directly to a run, but received a solid performance on the mound from Evan Hall. The first five runs Gladstone scored were unearned and Hall struck out three.
"Hats off to Tri-County," said Martin. "Their ace was out of pitches and wasn't available to pitch tonight, but Evan Hall held us good. They fought.
"I had Ben available and he did pretty good. It was just a matter of what pitchers we had available and it worked out good for us."
Gladstone came up with 11 hits in the victory.
In the post game celebration, Don Howes told the Gladstone team an inspiring story of a historic Gladstone team that dropped their area tournament opener and went on to win 15 straight after that to win the state. "It can be done," Howes told the Gladstone All-Stars.
For now, it's on to district finals for Gladstone.
"I'm really excited," said Kelly. "There will be better teams, better competition and it feels real good to have home field advantage."
Martin said, "The kids are excited. They're having fun and that's what you want. IF kids are having fun, they're going to play better and they're going to win some games."