Legion Blues win Mid-Pen
By BURT ANGELI
CHANNING – Kingsford put it all together to beat Hancock 12-6 and capture American Legion baseball’s Mid-Peninsula League tournament title Sunday at Newberg Field.
Although Cole Tengesdahl’s grand slam homer in an eight-run fourth inning highlighted the final, Blues manager Kevin Murdock also lauded the pitching and defense.
“You look at our pitching and defense, and then we put up 12 runs,” Murdock said. “That’s a great sign. Everything is starting to click.”
Kingsford plated two runs in the opening inning on the first of three Bubba Johnson singles. That 2-0 margin lasted until the third when Hancock used timely hitting and Kingsford miscues for a four-run inning.
In the fourth inning, Kingsford chalked up eight runs on five hits. The Blues pulled ahead 5-4 with four runs and 9-4 after Tengesdahl’s grand slam.
“It came down to one huge inning,” Hancock manager Nels Paul said. “We gave up three walks, an error and you do that against a big swinging team like this will you get into trouble.”
“The kid poked out the home run and sort of put it away at that point.”
Kingsford padded the lead with two more runs in the sixth inning. Hancock matched the number with two in the seventh.
“We can play with them,” said Paul, noting Kingsford with a 10-8 hit advantage. “Look at the hitting, the stats overall, I think we’re pretty even on hits.”
“I thought we played well. We had some good pitching, and threw some young pitchers today. I thought they did well. But if you give up some walks and don’t make some plays things like that can happen.”
Three Hancock pitchers whiffed seven and walked two. Aidan Wienke went the distance for Kingsford. The right-hander scattered eight hits, fanned seven and walked two.
“All year he’s a power pitcher that’s going to throw hard all the time,” Murdock said of the Michigan Tech football recruit. “He’s going to keep firing. He’s going to keep working.”
Ty LaDuron led Hancock with three hits including two doubles. Tengesdahl added a single to his fourth-inning shot.
“That was big time,” Murdock said of Tengesdahl’s homer. “Cole has struggled a little bit but for him to get that was a monster. That was the nail in the coffin.”
Johnson singled twice while Cole Michaud and Brandon Kowalkowski also notched fourth-inning hits.
Both teams are looking forward to the U.P. zone tournament July 24-28 in Menominee.
“Overall, we played a great tournament,” Paul said. “We’ll be doing OK when it comes to the states (zone).”
“We can play with all of the teams. I’m confident of that. Our pitching is deep enough to get us through.”
Kingsford (15-12) is American Legion baseball’s Tier 2 defending state champion.
“It was an outstanding tournament,” said Murdock in assessing the league tourney. “You look what our pitching staff did for the three games and I can’t say enough about that.”
“Everybody pitched real well and the defense played really well behind them. I’m feeling really good about this team.”
In the tournament quarterfinals Saturday, Kingsford plated four runs in the first two innings and held off Ishpeming 4-3. Hancock needed nine innings to outlast tourney host Channing 7-6.
Hancock, with pitcher Ty LaDuron striking out 15, blanked top-seeded Marquette 4-0 in the semifinals.
“Ty pitched a fantastic game against Marquette,” said Paul, noting he took a no-hitter deep into the game before concluding with a three-hitter.
Kingsford reached the finals with a 5-1 decision over second-seeded Gladstone.
In the Blues’ opening victory, Cole Michaud tossed a two-hitter over six innings. He also tallied four walks and three strikeouts.
Austin Murdock closed the door in the seventh with no hits and a strikeout.
“Cole pitched another gem of a game,” coach Murdock said. “He has been really consistent from the mound all year.
“We have a nice pitching staff going right now and I like the way we go after the hitters.”
CJ Qualley rapped a double and single for the Blues while Austin Murdock and Bryce Kerscher each singled.
In the first inning, Qualley doubled and pilfered third base. He scored on Tengesdahl’s deep fly to center.
Aidan Wienke, Conor Berndt, Qualley and Cole Tengesdahl drew two-out walks. Murdock drove home two more with a single up the middle.
In the semifinals, Kingsford snapped a 1-1 draw with three runs in the fifth inning and one more in the seventh.
Michael McCole checked the Indians on four hits, no walks and two strikeouts over four innings. Austin Murdock worked the last three, permitting three hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
“Our starting pitching is doing a great job getting us deep into the game,” coach Murdock said. “Michael is a strong pitcher that is a great competitor.”
McCole, coming off an injury, pitched five innings on Tuesday prior to Saturday.
“Michael will just keep getting stronger,” Murdock said. “Austin does just a great job in that closer role.”
Murdock tagged his third home run of the season and joined Qualley (triple) and Tengesdahl (double) with two-hit efforts. Brandon Kowalkowski added a single.
In the fourth inning, Bryce Kerscher reached second base after a comebacker to the mound was misplayed. The former Florence standout later scored on two passed balls.
Cole Michaud opened the fifth frame with a walk and moved to second on a “beautiful” sacrifice bunt by Kowalkowski. Qualley added a single to set up Murdock’s three-run blast to center.
In the seventh inning, Qualley tripled and scored on Tengesdahl’s infield single.