Looking up after a bad start
Marinette Legion hopes comeback win helps kick-start erratic season
Sunday, June 23, 2013 7:00 PM
MARINETTE - After a game of giveaway, the Marinette Legion baseball team settled down and played some good ball to earn a doubleheader split Saturday.
Marinette Legion second baseman Ty Bebo tags out Neenah’s Alex Nicholson to thwart a stolen base attempt in the fifth inning of Saturday’s second game at Pedersen Ball Park. Catcher Scott Eldredge made the throw. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Neenah won the first game 7-4 and Marinette rallied to win the second game 7-3 at Pedersen Ball Park.
Marinette (8-8) has been spinning its wheels in the first two weeks of the season. Post 39 coach Brian Lesandrini hopes the second game is more indicative of what's to come.
"I felt the second half of that game was the best we've played all season," Lesandrini said. "We ended a doubleheader here on a very positive note."
The day started on a sour note for Marinette. In the first inning, Jake McMahon walked three batters, and a combination of stolen bases, a passed ball and a throwing error gave Neenah two gift runs.
"We started out pretty flat," Lesandrini said. "We threw the ball around. Uncharacteristic walks from Jake."
McMahon overpowered Neenah to strike out 11 of the 23 batters he faced, but five walks and three hits - two cheapos - proved costly.
"We made mistakes which ultimately cost us the game," the Marinette coach said.
Marinette got a run back in its half of the first on Austin Belonga's RBI single.
Neenah (2-6) added a run in the fifth on a bloop RBI single by Jacob Formella, then tacked on two runs in the fifth. Formella's infield single drove in one run, and when he was hit by the throw to first base, a second run scored.
In the fifth, Austin Wright reached on a dropped third strike, advanced on Derek Klegin's double and scored on Scott Eldredge's sacrifice fly. But a baserunning blunder at third cost Post 39 at least one run.
Belonga lined a solo home run in the sixth. In the seventh, Neenah added two runs on three hits off Eldredge. Marinette got one run on back-to-back doubles by Klegin and Eldredge.
Marinette hit the ball hard but Neenah third baseman Alex Nicholson had an outstanding day. He made five putouts in each game, including several gems. He dove to his right to spear a shot, bounced up like a spring and gunned down Klegin.
Nicholson recently moved from shortstop.
"It's obviously starting to work out," Neenah coach Kyle Kannenberg said.
Defense had been a Neenah forte the past couple of seasons.
"This year we're struggling," Kannenberg said. "It's actually been pretty horrendous. Today was one of our better days."
Belonga pitched a solid complete game in Marinette's win. He allowed two earned runs on six hits and two walks and struck out seven.
Trailing 3-0, Marinette batted around the order for a four-run fourth. Aaron Benson and Belonga set the table with singles and Nate Kallestad singled them home. Kallestad was tagged out due to a missed squeeze bunt sign, but Beau DeLaet kept the inning alive with a pure hustle infield single. Klegin singled home two more runs.
DeLaet sparked a three-run sixth with a two-out infield single. Klegin also beat out an infield bouncer and Eldredge singled in a run. One run scored on a throwing error and Benson singled home the third run.
"Sometimes it seems like they lose focus," Lesandrini said. "It's the little things like that which sometimes cost us a game. They kept battling is the main thing - they persevered through the mistakes."
As is usually the case with visiting teams, Neenah relished the opportunity to play at a much better ballpark than its home field.
"For a Legion team to play at a caliber of field like this is great," Kannenberg said. "Definitely a great atmosphere to play."
Neenah 7, Marinette 4
WP - Connor Navis 5 IP, 3R, 1ER, 6H, 1W, 1K
LP - Jake McMahon 5 IP, 5R, 2ER, 3H, 5W, 11K
Leading hitters (Marinette): Derek Klegin 2x4, 2 2B; Scott Eldredge 2x3, 2 RBIs; Austin Belonga 2x4, HR, 2 RBIs; Nate Kallestad 2x3; (Neenah): Jacob Formella 3x4, 2 RBIs; A.J. Rustick 2x3
Neenah 201 020 2 7
Marinette 100 011 1 - 4
Marinette 7, Neenah 3
WP - Austin Belonga 7IP, 2ER, 6H, 2W, 7K
LP - Adam Gruett 6 IP, 7R, 6ER, 10H, 2W, 2K
Leading hitters (Marinette): Klegin 2x3, 2 RBIs; Aaron Benson 2x4, RBI; Kallestad 1x3, 2 RBIs; Beau DeLaet 2x3; (Neenah): Alex Nicholson 2x2; Nick Munce 1x2, RBI; Tyler Sauer 1x2
Neenah 012 000 0 - 3
Marinette 000 403 x - 7