Escanaba cruises to title
Popelka leads Eskymos to two victories
ESCANABA — The Escanaba Eskymos took care of their home field for the second straight weekend, earning top honors in the Mo’s Pub Invitational baseball tournament Saturday.
Esky, which also won the Bink’s Coca-Cola Invite May 13, opened this time with a 6-1 victory over Negaunee, then beat Rudyard 6-0 in the championship game on this cloudy, breezy and chilly day at Al Ness Field.
“It wasn’t the greatest weather for baseball,” said Esky coach Kirk Schwalbach. “The cold affects everybody. Your hands get cold which makes it hard to throw.”
Senior Justin Popelka, who took the win against Rudyard, was selected the tourney’s Most Valuable Hitter and Pitcher.
Popelka collected three hits against Negaunee and went 3-for-3 in the title contest.
Against Rudyard, he pitched 6 1/3 innings, struck out seven, walked five and allowed five hits.
“Justin didn’t have his best stuff today and he’d be the first one to tell you that,” said Schwalbach. “But he made quality pitches when he had to, which speaks volumes for his mental toughness, plus he hit the ball real well.”
Noah Lancour, who came on in relief, retired the last two hitters.
Popelka’s single to left field gave Esky a 1-0 lead over Rudyard in the first inning.
The Eskymos (15-12) added four runs in the second by taking advantage of an error, a hit batsman and two walks.
Aaron Young then concluded the scoring on a wild pitch in the fifth.
Rudyard (13-10) loaded the bases with one out in the third and with two gone in the sixth and failed to score.
Jace Jenerou led off Rudyard’s fourth with an infield single and Trenton MacDowell followed with a single to right. James Burton was then thrown out trying to bunt his way on, but advanced the baserunners.
Popelka, however, ended the threat by striking out Tyler Spencer and Gavin Smith.
“We just have to do a better job getting runners in from third base with two out,” said Rudyard coach Jim Smith. “We’re leaving too many runners on base.
We’ve had a hard time getting the timely hits all year. Escanaba has a good hitting ball club. Their pitcher did a good job. He gave up a few walks, but pitched well enough to get out of jams.”
McDowell, the first of three Rudyard pitchers, took the loss. He gave up two hits and walked four of the nine hitters he faced.
Jenerou and MacDowell had two hits each for Rudyard, which stranded seven baserunners in the contest. Esky left six on base.
In the opener, John Schlenvogt worked 5 2/3 innings for the win. He fanned three and walked one before C.J. Barron relieved in the sixth.
Barron finished 2-for-2. Josh Bruntjens clubbed an RBI single in the fifth and Schlenvogt added an RBI double in the sixth.