GLADSTONE - Gladstone baseball head coach Don Lauscher doesn't pride himself on being a big statistical guy, but after looking over his players' batting averages and on-base percentages, he decided to try something new for the first time all year: place Christian Tackman in the leadoff spot in the Braves' lineup.
It didn't take long for Tackman to thrive in the leadoff role in both games of Gladstone's (21-2) 11-3 and 7-3 victories over Houghton (6-6).
In the first game, Tackman was 3-for-3 with a single, home run, and an inside-the-park home run. He also drew a walk and scored a total of three times, while only failing to reach base one time all afternoon.
Houghton's Reid Pietila delivers a pitch in the first game of a doubleheader against Gladstone. Gladstone won both games of the doubleheader, 11-3 and 7-3. (Daily Press photo by Bryce Derouin)
He was just as efficient in the second contest, going 2-for-3 with two singles, an RBI, and a run scored.
"I was looking at the stats today, and his on-base percentage and his batting average were up there, and I also wanted more speed to get up there at the top of the lineup, so it was a combination of those three things," Lauscher said about moving Tackman. "Sometimes you can overthink things. But sometimes like tonight, it's very rewarding when you make a couple of moves and they pay off."
After Houghton's Brad Juntunen came across to score the game's first run in the top of the first, Gladstone responded with some runs of its own. With Tackman leading the Braves' rally, Gladstone scored three runs in the first inning of the first game. They continued the offensive onslaught in the second inning, scoring four runs, highlighted by Tackman's home run.
Jack Peterson was the winning pitcher for the Braves in game one of the doubleheader.
In the second game, Gladstone's Justin Jurek gave the Braves their first run, as he drove in Hunter Garling on an RBI single in the first inning. Jurek later scored on a wild pitch in the same inning, giving the Braves an early 2-0 lead.
In the second inning, Houghton had its best offensive opportunity of the game, loading up the bases. With the bases loaded, Jonathon Bostwick reached on a fielder's choice, while Reid Pietila managed to score and make it 2-1 Gladstone. Brad Juntunen tallied an RBI single, to score Cale Markham.
However, that would be all the Gremlins would be able to score, as Cole Jepsen grounded out to Gladstone's Brandon Cooper to end the inning.
"I thought we played good in spots, in both games," Houghton head coach John Bostwick said. "Couple plays here and a couple plays there, and maybe it's a different game."
The Braves responded once again in the next half-inning. Tackman's RBI single allowed Sam Pouliot to score and give the Braves a 3-2 lead.
"If they score a couple runs, let's just try to win each and every inning. That's always been our mentality," Lauscher said. "If they score two, then we want to come back and score three. Every inning we come in we say 'Hey lets win this inning.' Every inning is individual for us and that's how we want to win it."
In the fourth inning, Gladstone began to create some separation. It started when Hunter Garling sent Peterson home on an RBI single. Then, Jurek reached base on a fielder's choice, as Houghton third baseman Reid Pietila attempted to get Tackman out at the plate, but Pietila's throw was off, allowing Tackman to score. Drake Draze followed up by launching a fly ball to left field, but Houghton's Spencer Donnelly was unable to make the catch, and so Garling came across to score and make it 6-2 Braves.
Houghton added a run in the fifth inning on a Connor Hannon RBI single, but that would be all the scoring for the Gremlins, while Gladstone added an insurance run in the sixth inning on an RBI groundout by Jack Carey, which scored Garling.
Christian Groleau was the winning pitcher in the second game for Gladstone. Groleau pitched four innings and surrendered two runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out two batters.
Despite dropping both games, there was plenty of positives for the visitng team. For Houghton, a team in its inaugural season, the chance to play Gladstone was an opportunity to see an established program and set some goals for the future of the Houghton baseball program.
"I'm very thankful that Gladstone let us come down here and play a couple games, because they are a class act," Bostwick said. "They got great facillites and the boys loved it. It's a great field and it's a great experience for us, and it's going to make us better."
Lauscher came away impressed with what he saw from the first-year Gremlins, who have only had one outdoor practice this year, due to the weather conditions.
"They certainly put the bat on the ball today," Lauscher said. "They swung the bat well. They pitched well. I tell you, if someone takes them lightly in the districts, they're going to be in for an eye-opener."