IRON MOUNTAIN – The last two years, the Menominee Red Wave have made it to the championship game of the U.P. Tournament only to be turned away by one of their biggest rivals in the Upper Peninsula, the Gladstone Indians.
This year, after defeating Iron Mountain in an extra-inning game with a drama-filled finish in the semifinals to reach the title game for the third straight year, Menominee would have another chance to finally get over the hump since Gladstone upset Marquette in the other semifinal game.
Gladstone scored two runs in the first inning and one in the second to take an early 3-0 lead, but Menominee clawed its way back in with a run in the third and fourth to cut the deficit to 4-2 after Gladstone added a run in its half of the fourth as well.
Still trailing 4-2 in the top of the sixth, the Red Wave played some small ball and exploded for five runs to claim a 7-5 advantage heading into the Gladstone’s final chance at the plate in the top of the seventh.
Menominee’s ace Andrew Schroeder got the start in the championship game, and with 11 pitches remaining until he hit his limit he trotted out to the mound in the seventh inning and needed just one pitch to record the first out.
Needing just two more outs to claim the U.P. Tournament crown, the next batter reached base on an error and back-to-back singles scored a run, put runners on second and third and chased Schroeder from the game as the final single came on his 108th pitch of the game.
“Andrew really did not want to come out of that game,” Menominee coach John Lauzer said. “He wanted the ball in the championship and wanted to finish it out for us, but I told him and the rest of the team during the mound visit that we got this for him. We had Hunter (Goldschmidt) fresh and ready to come in and we were confident he would be able to close it out for us.”
Goldschmidt entered the game with a 7-6 lead and runners on second and third with one out, and after throwing two straight balls to start the at bat, the batter made contact and hit a comebacker right at him. After fielding the ball, Goldschmidt checked the runners at third and second before spinning around and throwing to first where he just nearly got the batter out who was hauling it down the first base line for the second out.
Things got interesting with the next at bat as Goldschmidt was facing a full-count and missed with the payoff pitch to load the bases with two outs. The next batter battled to a 2-2 count, but Goldschmidt finally got him to hit a weak pop-up to the Keaton Uecke over at first base, and as the ball hit his mitt, Uecke squeezed and secured the third out, finally ending the championship game losing-streak to Gladstone and crowning the Menominee Red Wave the 2020 U.P. Champions.
“Once Keaton caught that ball the celebrating started and it really was an amazing feeling,” Lauzer said. “We love playing Gladstone because they always bring the best out of us, and to see the joy on our kids faces after we finally beat them in the big one, you can’t help but be happy for them.”
The five-run sixth inning where Menominee took its first lead of the game started off with back-to-back doubles from Austin Burnside and Braeden McMahon, the latter one scoring Burnside and trimming Menominee’s deficit to 4-3.
Buddy Beyer then hit an infield single to put runners on first and second and Uecke laid down a perfect bunt that Gladstone attempted to throw to third and get the lead runner out, but the ball sailed into left field and McMahon scored easily to tie the game while the other two runners stayed put at first and second.
Dante Sartorelli took a page out of Uecke’s book with a bunt of his own in the next at bat and Gladstone had no play anywhere as the speed of Sartorelli was too much as he reached first safely to load the bases with no outs. After the first out of the inning, Ethan Russell walked to give Menominee a 5-4 lead to bring up the top of the order, and Schroeder hit into a fielder’s choice to score a run and Keagan Monroe delivered an RBI single to give Menominee a 7-5 lead that it would not give up.
“We needed to make something happen with the outs winding down and just like we did most of the year we found a way to pull it off,” Lauzer said. “Dante and Keaton laid down two perfect bunts and when you put the ball in play, no matter how you do it and make the other team field it, they might make a mistake and that’s what happened when they threw the ball around a little and we scored some runs. Ethan had a great at bat to get walked and then we know once we get up to Andrew and Keagan if we have runners on base we are in business.”
“I am so proud of all of these kids. They played some fantastic baseball this season and they deserve to be the champs.”
Menominee’s four 19 years – Monroe, Beyer, Goldschmidt and Sartorelli – were the ones who went and picked up the championship banner after the game, and Lauzer noted it was an emotional moment.
“Seeing all of the happy faces and then those four young men going up there and getting our banner, I think we all had tears in our eyes at that moment,” he said. “They finally got the monkey off their back and I could not be happier for them.”
In the drama-filled semifinal game against Iron Mountain, Menominee jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning after Monroe notched a single and later scored and McMahon singled and later scored on an error.
Three more runs came in the second when Russell reached on an error with one out, Schroeder walked after him and Monroe ripped a 2-RBI triple and scored on Burnside’s groundout to bump the lead to 5-1.
Iron Mountain got three runs back in the top of the fourth and tied it up at 6 in the fifth after getting to Monroe, who started on the bump for Menominee.
The game stayed tied through the seventh as the starters for both teams were removed and the relievers came on to try and finish the games. Burnside, who took the mound for Menominee, pitched for Crivitz a few days before and threw 68 pitches, but Lauzer asked him if he was ready to go and he took over for Monroe after the first batter of the seventh inning.
In this tournament for extra innings, International Rules apply which means that both teams start the inning with a runner on second.
In Iron Mountain’s half of the eighth, the first batter flew out to right field to advance the runner to third on a tag-up. A grounder to the shortstop scored the runner from third and gave the Red Wave the second out of the inning, but a two-out rally from IM scored one more run and gave them an 8-6 lead.
With Menominee facing elimination and a runner on second with no outs, a passed ball moved the runner to third and he scored on an infield single from Schroeder to bring Menominee within one. After a fielder’s choice from Monroe that caught Schroeder out at second, Burnside singled to put runners on first and second with one out.
McMahon then stepped to the plate and hit a grounder to third that pulled the third baseman away from the base and he threw over to first, but McMahon beat out the throw and Monroe never stopped running as he rounded third and easily scored on the play to tie the game.
Uecke then reached base on an error to load the bases with two outs, and Sartorelli hit a slow dribbler to the second baseman that was misplayed and should have won Menominee the game, but on the play Uecke was called out for runner interference and the Red Wave’s winning run was taken away.
That’s when things got out of control for a bit.
Lauzer stormed out of the Menominee dugout to argue the call, and after a long conference between all three umpires at the pitcher’s mound, the umps overturned the call, gave Menominee the run and win.
Iron Mountain coach Paul Julian then came out to protest the game, and after looking at an online rulebook and conferring again, the umpires overturned the call again and brought both teams back on the field to play it out in the ninth inning.
“Keaton didn’t come close to touching the second baseman so I don’t see where any of that came from, but there was nothing we could do. It was completely out of our hands and we just had to come back out and dela with it,” Lauzer said.
Burnside shut down IM in its half of the ninth, and when Menominee stepped to the plate in the ninth it would be the final time either team did that game.
With one out and Sartorelli on third base, Russell stepped to the plate with the chance to be the hero and send Menominee to the title game, and he did just that with a well hit ball to right field that was caught, but was deep enough to allow Sartorelli to trot in and end the game with a 9-8 victory.
Unfortunately for the Red Wave, their season is now over, but they will always remember this season as the U.P. Champs title belongs to them.
“This is really the icing on the cake for this team,” Lauzer said. “They have been through a lot and again, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”