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Justin St. Ours | Daily Press Gladstone’s Casey Alworden lines up a single against Escanaba Thursday in Escanaba.

ESCANABA — The Gladstone Indians stuck to their game plan here Thursday night, helping them hang on for a 7-6 season-opening American Legion baseball victory over the Escanaba Cubs.

Gladstone, which elected to pitch by committee, used four in the traditional opener of the Gregg Johnson/Al Erickson Memorial tournament.

“We talked about that before the game,” said Gladstone manager Scott Kwarciany. “We wanted to pitch by committee. We got three good innings out of Tyler Darmogray. Cam Kelly gave us two and got an inning each from John Soderman and Noah Peterson. A tournament like this comes down to saving arms, and we have enough pitchers to do that. You’ve got to have five good pitchers to have a shot at winning it.”

The Indians took a 7-3 advantage by scoring four times in the seventh, although the Cubs didn’t go away quietly.

Aedan Creten gave the Indians a 4-3 lead by scoring on an error. Tyler Darmogray made it 5-3 on Kelly’s sacrifice fly to centerfield followed by a two-run double to left by John Soderman.

Esky, taking advantage of a fielding and throwing error, trimmed its deficit to 7-4 in its half of the seventh.

Parker Frappier brought the Cubs within 7-5 on a wild pitch, and Scott Hiller concluded the scoring on Nathan Howes’ ground out to the shortstop.

Peterson then helped the Indians secure the decision by retiring Eli Gardner on a bounce out to short.

Esky loaded the bases with two out in the sixth before a key defense play by Darmogray (at short) got Gladstone out of the inning.

“We talked about getting clutch hits and leaving the bases loaded was major,” said Bintner. “Darmogray made heck of a play to end the inning. If we could have held them to one or two runs maybe we could have had a walk-off win, but we spotted them four runs which was a little too much. Although, getting three runs back says a lot about our team.”

Gladstone jumped on the Cubes quickly, with Darmogray starting the game with a single to left-center. Casey Alworden drew a walk, and Kelly followed with a two-run double along the leftfield line.

Kelly then scored Gladstone’s third run on a throwing error just moments later.

Gardner got Esky on the board on Nick Chiu’s sacrifice fly to right in the third, and Jack McEver’s two-run single to center tied the score in the fifth.

“We had momentum,” said Bintner. “We talked about extending our at-bats and being good enough hitters to battle.

“The bottom of our order did a good job getting on base and putting a little pressure on their pitchers. Hunter (Lancour) settled in after the first and pitched a pretty good game. Our mental mistakes happened in the first inning. Then, we did a good job limiting those after the first.”

Lancour, who took the loss, worked six ins and faced a hitter in the seventh before reaching his pitch count limit. He struck out six, walked four and allowed four runs on three hits.

“Give credit to Hunter,” said Kwarciany. “He settled down after the first inning and pitched a great game. He ran out of pitches, and we were able to take advantage of that. I’m glad we didn’t have to go into extra innings. That would have been a momentum swing.”

Nick Martin had two of Gladstone’s five hits. Esky finished with six, including a pair by McEvers.

The teams combined for seven errors, including five by the Indians.

Gladstone hosted Dickinson County Friday and hosts Niagara, Wis. and Marinette today at 4:30 and 7, respectively.

Esky, which hosted Menominee Friday, hosts the Eastern UP Wood Ducks today at 2 and Copper Country at 4:30.

The tournament concludes Sunday with semifinal games at Esky and Gladstone, followed by the championship contest at Al Ness Field at 1:30 pm

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