L’Anse sweeps Ontonagon in their home opener

L’ANSE — Despite soft field conditions at home, the L’Anse Purple Hornets hosted the Ontonagon Gladiators in a doubleheader to mark the start of both teams’ baseball seasons. L’Anse came out strong in the first game, 20-0, with all nine players hitting home base at least once in the top of the first inning. Five runs would follow in the bottom of one.

Purple Hornets manager Chad Cichosz was happy to see his team put things together outside for the first time after weeks of practicing inside.

“First of all, we’re just just grateful to be out here, finally getting outside to play,” said Cichosz. “As far as performance-wise, I’m pleased with what we did. It’s hard to simulate any real game situations in a gym where we’ve been practicing for the last six weeks. Getting out here and putting things in motion was nice.

“The guys are putting the bat on the ball. Our starting pitching was great. The big part is to see what we’re able to do compared to how we practiced in the gym and finally getting out here.”

The Purple Hornets would continue to hold off their visitors, adding three more runs at the bottom of the third inning for a 17-0 advantage. Three more runs stacked up off a drive to the right side of the diamond bringing in a 20-0 win to start the night.

Ontonagon manager Raymond Bramlett made adjustments throughout the game, most notably at the mound.

“As expected,” said Bramlett. “We haven’t had any outdoor practice, so we were kind of working out and seeing who fits where. Ryan Driesenga started. He had trouble hitting the zone, we got him around 50 pitches or so, which was what we were hoping to get to.

“We brought in Ken (Bramlett). It took him a little bit, but he found that zone and got some nice big strikeouts. Then we decided to get Eddie (Corrothers) in to get some more experience. “I think the biggest thing we had (in Game One) was that we have to work on outfield, seeing the ball and getting that ball in quicker.”

The second game started out much like the first with the Purple Hornets coming away with 11 unanswered runs in the first four innings.

“Offensively, we’re putting the ball in play (but) there are some things we could work on (all around),” said Cichosz. “It’s just good to get out here and get an early game in. We’re three weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year, so that’s always good.

A different configuration at nearly every position allowed the Gladiators to make a five-run streak in the fifth inning, but it was too little too late for the visitors. Bramlett saw improvement in his team’s overall play.

“The second game we played much better,” said Bramlett. “We played much better. We were way more aggressive at bat and on the bases. Still, with a lot of routine plays, we made them look hard, so we’ve got to smooth that stuff out. I thought our pitching was much better the second game. I thought Brendan Polky did a great job. We had errors where we could’ve gotten out of the inning, so we’ve got to work on backing our pitches up”

L’Anse will host a doubleheader at home against Lake Linden-Hubbell on Friday. Ontonagon will travel to Lake Linden next Wednesday.

Cichosz wanted to recognize the community members that came together in preparation for the season.

“I would like to thank all the people in the community, all the volunteers in the community that helped make this field playable,” said Cichosz. “We spent about four hours on Saturday getting it ready for this home opener and then all the help we’ve gotten from the volunteers and local businesses. L’Anse Warden Electric helped us out with getting an indoor batting cage, which has been really beneficial.”