Marinette Legion second baseman Ty Bebo slaps a tag on Eau Claire’s Ryan Connor to deny a stolen-base attempt in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s state tournament game at Pedersen Ball Park. Catcher Austin Belongas made the throw. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Marinette Legion second baseman Ty Bebo slaps a tag on Eau Claire’s Ryan Connor to deny a stolen-base attempt in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s state tournament game at Pedersen Ball Park. Catcher Austin Belongas made the throw. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
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MARINETTE - Some early-game jitters, impatience at the plate, and a little late-game indecision separated Marinette Legion from victory at the AAA state tournament Wednesday night.

Eau Claire hung on for a white-knuckle 3-2 victory over Marinette at Pedersen Ball Park.

Marinette will play Kimberly today at 1 p.m. in the double-elimination state tourney. Eau Claire will play Beloit at 7.

Eau Claire scored two unearned runs in the first inning and took a 3-1 lead into the ninth.

Scott Eldredge reached safely on Eau Claire's only error of the game, and Aaron Benson punched an opposite-field single to right. Coach Mark Faanes turned to hard-throwing closer Sam Hurt to relieve starter Dominic Berlin.

One strikeout later, Luke Kelly hit his fourth center field fly ball of the night. Unlike the first three, this one sailed over the head of Adam Faanes. Eldredge scored from second but pinch runner McMahon had to hold up between first and second to make sure the ball wasn't caught, so he held at third. Kelly hit one of the longest singles you'll see.

"They ran it right," said Marinette coach Brian Lesandrini, the third-base coach. "If he catches it over the shoulder ... "

Had there been two outs, both baserunners would've scored. With one out, McMahon couldn't risk turning a deep fly into a game-ending double play.

Nate Kallestad then walked to load the bases, but Hurt pitched out of the jam with a popout and a strikeout.

"Well, he's done a good job all year," coach Faanes said of his closer. "I got less confident as the game went on."

A crowd of at least several hundred agonized over every pitch in the nerve-wracking ninth.

"That was a great game to watch," Lesandrini said. "Tough one to lose, that's for sure."

Marinette got another outstanding complete-game performance from pitcher Jake McMahon, who threw 110 pitches and allowed just one earned run on five hits with one walk and seven K's.

"That's a good ballclub over there," the Eau Claire coach said of Marinette. "No. 3 (McMahon) there is the best guy we've faced all year. He had enough velocity, but also good breaking pitches. We couldn't read the pitches, couldn't read the spin."

Hurt led off the bottom of the first with a base hit for Eau Claire. He reached second on a throwing error. He scored on another throwing error, and Berlin made Post 39 pay even more with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.

Like Eau Claire, Marinette has played good defense all summer. But three errors were uncharacteristic.

Kallestad's solo home run to left cut Eau Claire's lead in half in the second. In the third, Nick Pedersen blasted a solo homer to left to restore a two-run lead.

After that, McMahon was lights-out.
"Ooh, he pitched a helluva game," the Marinette coach said. "I just wish we could get runs for him. Errors early on didn't help."

After the shaky start, Marinette had some glove gems. Second baseman Ty Bebo made a leaping backhanded grab in the second, and first baseman Luke Kelly snagged a one-hop throw to first. Third baseman Beau DeLaet charged Faanes' bunt attempt in the fourth for a putout. In the seventh, right fielder Austin Wright charged a one-hop hit by Garett Phillips, and fired to Bebo at second for a forceout.

"We battled them tooth and nail," Lesandrini said. "Very proud of them against a very good team."

WP - Dominic Berlin 8 IP, 2R, 1ER, 4H, 1W, 6K
LP- Jake McMahon 8 IP, 3R, 1ER, 5H, 1W, 7K

Leading hitters (Marinette): Nate Kallestad 1x3, HR; Luke Kelly 1x4, RBI; (Eau Claire): Berlin 1x3, RBI; Connor Ryan & Garett Phillips 1x3; Nick Pedersen 1x4, HR

Marinette 010 000 001 - 2
Eau Claire 201 000 00x - 3