AUBURN – When I talked to Coach Terry Brokoff between innings of the Pickens game on Saturday morning, he jokingly told me that he could give me his quotes right now. He quipped, “we played great and won the tournament. It was a great weekend of baseball.” He was right.
The Gladwin Thunder used strong starting pitching and timely hitting to go 5-1 over the weekend to win the Ultimate Strike Zone Tournament last weekend in the Tri City area. “It was fun to play baseball this weekend,” said Coach Terry Brokoff. “There were several elite teams in the tournament, the level of competition was extremely high.”
The Thunder opened tournament play on Thursday afternoon with a 6-2 win over the Detroit PAL Senior team. According to Brokoff, the PAL team is made up of some of the best baseball players in the city of Detroit. John Cogswell got the start on the mound for Gladwin. He pitched four and a third innings allowing two hits and one earned run while striking out four. Hunter Merillat entered the game in the top of the fifth with the game tied 2-2 and a runner on third. He struck out the two batters he faced stranding the PAL runner at third.
Gladwin broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth when they scored four runs. Merillat drove a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence to put the Thunder up for good. Walks to Jarrett Inscho, Chase Raymond and Ethan Shea loaded the bases with two outs. Ian Morrison doubled driving in all three runners giving Gladwin a 6-2 lead. Shea took over the pitching duties in the bottom of the sixth retiring three of the four batters he faced preserving the 6-2 win.
Game two was a pitcher’s duel between Inscho from Gladwin and Mikey Gall of the Diamonds. Both pitchers went the distance in the Diamonds 2-0 win. Inscho gave up only four hits and one earned run, but that was enough as the Thunder was unable to break through against Gall. He struck out 11 Gladwin batters and scattered three hits in the game. Inscho, Reed Raymond and Carson Oldani got the only Gladwin hits in the game.
With a 1-1 record after two games the Thunder had to win out to ensure that they advanced out of pool play. The Gladwin bats came alive in the next three games as they scored a total of 23 runs while giving up only eight. Merillat and Trent Reed both pitched in the Friday morning game against the PK Prospects. Merrillat threw five innings and Reed one in the 8-4 Gladwin win. Dane Smitz, Chase Raymond, Oldani and Reed each had two hits in the game. Reed’s were a double and triple. Merillat helped his own cause with a single in the second that drove in two runs.
Gladwin scored three runs in the top of the first in their second game on Friday, a 7-2 win over the Oakland Bulldogs. Smitz got the game started with a leadoff double. Courtesy runner Drew Grove moved to third on a single by Reed Raymond. He would eventually score on a wild pitch. Chase Raymond doubled knocking Reed Raymond and Inscho who had walked earlier.
The three runs were all that starting pitcher Chase Raymond would need as he pitched five innings striking out nine and surrendering one earned run. Shea pitched two shutout innings striking out three of the seven batters he faced. Owen Franklin had two triples and scored two runs in the game. Chase Raymond had two RBIs.
At 4-1 the Thunder needed a win Saturday morning to move on. The Pickens team looked good early when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Keegan Merenuk walked to start the game and scored on a double by Josh Brown. Brown scored on a double by Sayer Robinson who was thrown out at third on a good relay from Reed to Inscho. Lane Peters struck out the next hitter and settled down giving up only three hits the rest of the way. Gladwin scored four runs in the third and sixth innings to take the win 8-2. Reed’s and Chase Raymond had two hits a piece and Colin Sackrider had two RBIs. Peters struck out 11 in the game while giving up only five hits.
The Thunder finished tied for second with Mt. Pleasant in the Mike Villano pool, but their scoring outburst over the last three games paid off as they had 17-6 run differential advantage which allowed them to move on to Red Championship game against Mason pool winner, the Metro Detroit Athletics on Sunday morning.
Reed Raymond got the start for Gladwin going the first five innings striking out seven while giving up only one hit. Merillat replaced Raymond in the sixth and was equally as sharp going the final six innings striking out nine and also giving up only one hit. The Athletic pitching staff had a great game too, starting pitcher Kane Elmy went seven scoreless innings striking out 12 and giving up five hits.
The 11th inning opened with Trent Reed placed on second base. Smitz moved him to third with a bunt single. A fielder’s choice ground out by Reed Raymond scored Reed for the games first run. Smitz moved to second on the play. After walks to Merillat and Inscho, Chase Raymond singled driving in Reed Raymond for a 2-0 Gladwin lead. An inning ending double play got the Athletics out of further trouble.
Pitching with a lead for the first time in the game Merillat shut the Athletics down again. He struck out the first two batters and when Marco Johnson lined out to Inscho at third the Thunder had a 2-0 championship game win. “It was a total team victory,” said Brokoff. “Everybody contributed, we got great starting pitching, good offense and defense. It was great to play this high caliber of baseball.”