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Cubs and Bucs opener Zones with wins

ESCANABA — The Escanaba Cubs and Bark River Bucs took different paths to victory in the opening round of the Upper Peninsula American Legion zone baseball tournament here Thursday night.

Esky’s Grant LaMarche fired a one-hitter in a 1-0 triumph over Marquette Blue, and Bark River scored 10 times in the opening frame of a 17-3 rout of Negaunee in five innings.

LaMarche struck out 13, walked two and hit a batter in his complete-game victory.

“I felt the best I have in a long time,” he said. “I got to take my time with warm-ups, and my arm got nice and loose. My curveball helped keep them off balance. They’re a real good team. Marquette is probably one of the tougher games we have lined up. You can’t take a batter off. Otherwise, they’re going to capitalize.”

Nick Kolich scored the game-winner on a fielder’s choice grounder by Jack McEvers in the sixth.

“I think that’s the best I’ve seen Grant pitch,” said Cubs’ manager Jon Bintner. “Thirteen strikeouts in seven innings, that’s a great pitching performance. We had three good scoring chances, and we finally pushed a run across. We still struck out a few times. You can’t look at a borderline pitch.”

Esky (7-10), which left a baserunner at third in the first and fifth frames, collected three hits off Blues’ starter Justin Wenk.

Wenk pitched 4 2/3 innings, fanned five and walked one. Dakota Maki took the loss in relief, giving up a run on no hits and an intentional walk in 1 1/3 frames.

“That was a great job by both pitchers,” said Blues’ manager Derek Swajanen. “He (LaMarche) is a first-year college pitcher (at Northwood University) and does a nice job, although we matched them pitch for pitch. We’re still set up well for the weekend tournament.”

Marquette (17-8) committed just one error, and Esky had none.

“This is definitely the way we wanted to start, but we still have three games in pool play,” said Bintner. “Our kids have been doing a good job stepping in and being ready to go anytime.”

Bark River collected 11 hits, including five while building a 10-0 cushion in inning one of the nightcap.

“It was nice getting the early lead,” said Bucs’ manager Matt Richer, Jr. “That’s the kind of baseball we expect to play, and we hit the gaps. Once we got the 10-run lead, we wanted to keep our pitch counts down. Negaunee usually has a good team. They’re fundamentally sound.”

Ian Gorzinski and John Robinette led the Bucs (7-10) with three hits each. Noah Gorzinski and Joe Javurek added two apiece.

The Bucs also didn’t commit any errors. The Diamonds (1-19) had nine.

“We have a very young team,” said Negaunee manager Jason Wiik. “We had gone six years without a program and don’t have any 18 or 19-year-olds. This is the first time playing ball since Little League for many of our kids. This is by far the most errors we’ve had all season. It has been tough for our fans and players. We’re trying to build for the future.”

The Diamonds were limited to three hits, including an RBI double to left by Jackson Gladwell in the first and an RBI double along the rightfield line by Jayce Kipling in the third.

Hunter Haanpa, who pitched the first two innings, absorbed the loss.

Bark River faced Esky and Marquette Friday and concludes pool play against Copper Country this morning at 10 at Al Ness Field.

Marquette, which also played Copper Country Friday, meets Negaunee today at 4.

Esky hosts Negaunee today at 1 and Copper Country at 7.

The tournament concludes Sunday with semifinal contests at Esky and Gladstone at 10:30 a.m.

Gladstone then hosts the championship game with Esky hosting the third-place contest. Both games begin at 1:30 p.m.

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