Cubs’ late rally comes up short, season ends

Justin St. Ours | Daily Press Escanaba’s Hunter Lancour hits the ball against Copper Country during an American Legion Zone tournament baseball game Friday at Escanaba.

ESCANABA — The Escanaba American Legion baseball team went down swinging 5-4 after eliminating most of a five-run deficit against the Copper Country Flames here Friday. The loss officially knocks Escanaba out of the zone tournament.

Copper Country visits Gladstone this morning at 11:30 a.m. in a semifinal game. The winner plays the winner of the Marquette-Menominee semifinal game at 4 for the championship.

After taking an early lead, the Flames continued to chip in runs, eventually leading 5-0 going into the bottom of the sixth.

“I always talk about which team makes the biggest mistakes and which team runs themselves out of innings, and that happened to happen to us at the end,” Cubs’ manager Jon Bintner said. “We couldn’t execute. It was unfortunate. That was a winnable game.”

Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases for Escanaba. Austin Bourdeau singled to move the runners, but Johnny Schlenvogt was tagged out on his way to home. Ayden Hanson then singled on a line drive to score Jake LaFave and earn Escanaba’s first run of the game. Three walks in a row drove in three more runs to move the Cubs within striking distance, but a fly out by Schlenvogt ended their inning.

“We did a real good job at the beginning of the game, but we left a lot of guys on base early and walked some guys,” Flames’ manager Andy Crouch said. “But, our kids stayed strong and we held them off. It doesn’t matter if you win by one or 50, a win is a win. So, I’m really happy with our progress.”

In the bottom of the seventh, LaFave singled, grabbed second on a wild pitch and made it to third on a sacrifice bunt by Noah Lancour. Conner AIken then drew a walk to put runners on the corners. A single from Bourdeau could have been tied the game, but LaFave was tagged out on his way to home, and a strikeout ended the Cubs’ season.

“It was nice to see,” Bintner said. “We were getting a little more patient at the plate, and just waiting for pitches that we could hit as opposed to the lackluster swings we had during the first five innings. It was good to see a little bit of a comeback. I’m kind of disappointed we weren’t able to get the tying run in.”

Riley Lamb took the loss for Escanaba over five innings, allowing eight hits, five walks and five runs while striking out three. Drew Rodman pitched two innings in relief while striking out one and allowing three hits. Bourdeau finished with three hits and one run, and LaFave collected two hits and a run. Rodman, Hanson, Brett Schlenvogt and Zeke Strand all finished with one RBI.

“Riley pitched really well,” Bintner said. “He pitched his heart out.”

Isaac Bennets earned the win for the Flames over five innings, allowing four hits, five walks and striking out three. Kevin Bostwick pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief, striking out one and allowing three hits, three walks and four runs. Justin Norkol and Kade Farrell both notched two hits and two RBIs, and Eli Oldt finished with three hits and a run.

“Baseball’s a game of failure,” Bintner said. “Baseball’s a weird game. You’re not going to get a hit every time. It’s what you do after that.

“It was a rough season, and there were some growing pains. We’re going to miss the guys who’ve been playing with us, and we wish them long illustrious careers in whatever they choose to do next.”

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