GLADSTONE - The Gladstone 10-11 year old boys are headed to the state tournament, an accomplishment they achieved in very convincing fashion. Gladstone was never threatened in its sectional tournament Sunday against Baraga County, breezing to 21-0 and 15-0 victories to advance.
The state tournament begins Saturday in Parchment, just outside of Kalamazoo.
Before the teams even took the field it was evident that although the two Upper Peninsula opponents were in the same age division, it wasn't exactly an even matchup. Baraga County was at a disadvantage from the start after not playing a single game in districts, and took the field for the first time this season on Sunday.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Cam Kelly, right, celebrates with Zach Hanson after Hanson scored on an inside-the-park home run in the second inning of the second game of Sunday’s Sectional Tounrnament against Baraga County at Howes Field in Gladstone. Hanson drove in three runs on the play.
"We didn't play in a district," said Baraga County coach Bill Jondreau. "We initially had three teams in our district, but they dropped out, so we automatically advanced out of our district. We had some practices, but they didn't know what was going on."
On top of that, the Baraga All-Stars had just nine on their roster and lost some of their talent to the upper Little League divisions.
"Our Major team got three of our 11 year old pitchers and these kids have minimal experience pitching," said Jondreau. "They were trying and they got the opportunity. Like we said, let them play and we'll see what happens."
The Baraga players fought, but Gladstone simply overpowered them in every aspect of the game. In the opener, Gladstone allowed just two baserunners on a base hit and walk.
"You'd like to see a better team, but you have to win the U.P.," said Gladstone coach Erick Hanson.
Baraga was a bit more competitive in the second game, racking up 3 hits and drawing five walks, but Gladstone was able to keep them off the scoreboard. Pitchers' Zach Hanson, Peyton Fedell and Caden Alwarden saw to that.
"We feel good about the team," said coach Hanson. "They're pitching well and all the kids are starting to hit the ball real good. It helps build confidence."
Gladstone batted through their order in the second and third innings of the second game, with every kid in the lineup either getting on base via a hit or a walk, or getting an RBI off a groundout.
Zach Hanson had the highlight of the game, when he ripped a ball to center field that was mishandled, allowing him to complete an inside-the-park home run, clearing the two on base in the process. That gave Gladstone an 11-0 lead in the second inning. Later in the second inning, Gladstone scored two runs on one passed ball and completed the inning with a 13-0 lead.
In the postgame ceremony, Gladstone was presented with the 1984 Gladstone Junior boys banner from their state tournament championship as inspiration before the team heads downstate on Friday.
Hanson knows he's in for a tougher test below the bridge.
"We expect to see a lot better competition, like what we saw against Norway (In the district tournament)," he said. "Norway was a real good team and we were lucky to take two against them and win the district. We expect we'll see teams as good as Norway, if not better and hopefully we can make Upper Michigan proud, because now we're not only representing Gladstone, but the U.P. "