HANCOCK - If the first two doubleheaders of the season for the Hancock Post 186 American Legion baseball team are any indication, the Mid-Pen League could be as random as this weekend's Powerball drawing.
Playing at home for the first time this season, Hancock earned its second split of the season Sunday against Channing, taking game one off the Railroaders 4-2 before losing the second 2-1.
"I'm happy with a split with these guys (Channing), happy with a split against the Blues (May 4 in Marquette), and I'm hearing other coaches are happy with these splits," Hancock manager Nels Paul said.
Hancock’s Trent Keteri pitches in the first inning of Sunday’s second game in the doubleheader against Channing at Hancock Driving Park. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Indeed, the gameplay was fairly neat for the second weekend of a severely delayed baseball season, though the bats needed to capitalize on scoring chances were not quite at full strength, particularly for the hosts.
In game two, Hancock had the tying run in scoring position three times in the last four innings against a tough pitcher in Channing's Cole Grenier, but couldn't push it across.
"Cole just threw a great game. We had a couple rough innings, but he pulled through," Channing manager Rob Berg said.
It made for a tough loss for Hancock starter Trent Keteri in his first outing of the season. Keteri settled down well after giving up two runs in the first inning, but Hancock couldn't overcome the early deficit.
The trouble started with a pair of dribblers, one scored an infield hit, the other an error. Grenier singled in a run and Derek Wagner's sacrifice fly made it 2-0 before Keteri got out of the inning with a strikeout and an infield grounder.
In the fourth, Hancock loaded the bases on two walks and a brilliant drag bunt by Brady Turner, but Channing got a forceout at the plate on Beau Dupuis' grounder to third and Keteri struck out to end the inning.
The hosts finally got on the board after Dax Durocher singled and, saved from a fielder's choice at second by Grenier's throwing error, scored on a passed ball, but with two on and one out, Hancock couldn't advance the runners. In the seventh, Alex VanWagner's two-out single and steal of second was rendered meaningless when Mike Saari grounded out to second.
Turner's drag bunt in the fourth was Hancock's first hit of the game, and the team only finished with three. The powerful Grenier struck out eight and walked four.
"I think it's just right now, his speed, that type of speed this early in the season. Also, we have a pretty young team, not used to the speed," Paul said.
Keteri allowed only three hits, none after the second inning, but walked four and beaned two. He struck out five.
In game one, Hancock ace Tyler LaDuron blazed through the Railroaders, striking out 12 and going 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and three RBIs as the hosts won 4-2.
LaDuron drove in Alex VanWagner for the game's first run in the opening inning, then singled in Saari after he reached on an error. Saari drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in a run in the fifth, but LaDuron struck again when VanWagner came in on a fly to center.
"We got enough and once we got the lead, I was pretty confident Tyler would keep us in the game," Paul said.
Channing rallied on Kenny Pekarek's RBI double in the fifth and a solo shot down the right-field line by Cole Gustafson in the sixth, but that's all there was for the visitors.
Hancock (2-2) is scheduled to return to action next Saturday with two non-league games at the Marquette Reds. No make-up date has been established for the doubleheader against the Marquette Blues that was rained out on Saturday.