(Courtesy of Marquette Blues)The Marquette American Legion Blues traveled to Plover this past weekend and competed in the Central Wisconsin Classic with 7 other teams. While the Blues came away with a 1-3 record for the tournament, they were eliminated from Sunday play by a tiebreaker formula. "We played in this last year and it is great competition. These are the premier AAA teams in Wisconsin. Last year we beat the former state champion Chippewa Falls and this year we beat last years champion Madison," said Blues Manager Derek Swajanen. On Thursday, the Blues took on Janesville and came away with a 3-2 loss. The Blues scored two runs in the top of the first inning and held the lead until the 4th when Janesville tied it up. Then Janesville scored one in the top of the 6th to take the lead and the Blues were unable to match it. "We were real happy with this game. The game winning run was a call that could have gone either way at third base. We matched them in hits and didn't commit any errors. That's what you hope for," said Swajanen. Leading the Blues offensively were Luke Swajanen and McKinley Larson who each had two hits. McKinley absorbed the loss on the mound. On Friday, the Blues took on Manitowoc and lost 19-2. "Manitowoc is one of those teams that we just don't seem to match up very well against. They beat us earlier in the year in Marinette and we felt that we could compete with them. They pounded out 14 hits along the way and we just could never get it going ourselves." However, Hunter Larson had a big day at the plate going 3-3 including a triple. Also adding hits were McKinley Larson and Colton Wiggins. "We used 4 different pitchers and they all had the same results. The next game Manitowoc only had 5 hits and watching the pitching that they faced, we were surprised they only had 5 hits," said Swajanen. On Saturday, the Blues faced off against defending State AAA Champions Madison and came away with a 9-8 victory. Marquette scored one in the top of the 2nd to take the lead, but gave up 4 in the bottom half. However, the Blues regrouped and plated 7 more in the top of the 3rd to take the lead. Madison would not go away, and scored 4 in the bottom of the 5th to tie the game. However, in the top of the 7th, the Blues scored what turned out to be the game winning run. Levi Underwood led off with a base hit and Colton Wiggins bunted him to second, however, Madison didn't cover third base and Underwood went all the way to 3rd on the play. "That was great base running on Underwoods part. To see that the bag was open and take third with the game on the line, that's what we expect our more experienced players to do," said Swajanen. Trevor Bratonia came up next and hit a line drive base hit into left field plating Underwood for the eventual game winner. Leading the Blues offensively were Hunter Larson, Ryan Hanson, Underwood and Bratonia who all had two hits each. Colin O'Neal pitched the first 4 innings before being relieved by Ryan Walther. O'neal walked 2, gave up 7 hits and struck out 0, while Walther gave up 1 hits, walked 2 and struck out 3. Immediately after that game, the Blues faced off against the odds on favorite for this years AAA State Title in the host Plover team. The Blues were shut out 8-0 but came away with some great experience. "Even though we lost this game, it wasn't as lopsided as it seemed. Playing the odds on favorite on their field, in their town with their fans their in abundance, that's a pretty hard thing to do. Our pitching only gave up 8 hits, which I was happy with, however we committed 3 critical errors that cost us runs every time which is hard to overcome when playing against those types of teams. They draw from 5 different high schools and it shows," said Swajanen. The Blues were able to keep Plover off the board until the bottom of the 4th inning, where they gave up 6 runs. "We had chances, we just couldn't seem to make anything happen. That's part of the game and we need to learn how to get through those situations and find a way to manufacture a run to get things started," he said. "All in all, to beat the defending state champions and play well in three of the 4 games this weekend, I'm real proud of this team and hope we can continue to play sharp baseball this coming week." The Blues will head to Menominee on Wednesday where the Zone Tournament will take place to see who qualifies for the State Tournament the following weekend in Adrian. The Marquette Blues will play the Kingsford Blues in the first round. The Marquette Blues are 29-19 on the season heading in to the tournament.
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