Braving the elements

The weather wasn’t the greatest, but after a 16-day layoff, the Alpena baseball team was just happy to be out on the field again on Tuesday.

Of course, getting two wins doesn’t hurt either.

Alpena battled through cold, windy conditions to sweep Sault Ste. Marie in a non-conference doubleheader. Alpena won 5-0 and 5-2.

The second game was called after 6 1/3 innings.

Alpena (3-1) hadn’t played a game since April 5, but the Wildcats looked solid in their home opener. The Wildcats’ deep pitching staff held the Blue Devils at bay most of the day and at the plate, Alpena came through with hits at key times.

“It felt great. The weather wasn’t great, but any time you can play it’s a good feeling,” Alpena coach Phil Schultz said. “With the elements the way they are, I thought we played outstanding. Our pitching was good, hitting I think we got caught up with a few line drives getting caught up in the wind. But overall it was tough conditions for hitting, but we managed to get some nice key hits.”

Chris Modrzynski and Cody Tucker combined for a one-hit shutout in the opener. Nathan Lajoie had Sault’s only hit in the fifth inning and the Blue Devils stranded four baserunners. Modrzynski pitched the first four innings before Tucker came on in relief. They combined for eight strikeouts and five walks.

The cold and windy conditions turned the game into more of a defensive battle at times with hard hit ground balls testing the infielders and fly balls testing the outfielders as they often got hung up in the wind.

An RBI single by Tim Atkinson to score Tucker in the third inning put Alpena on the board first and Alpena added another run in the fourth inning after Dylan Glennie’s sacrifice fly scored Nick Skiba.

Brad Styma had Alpena’s biggest hit of the game in the fifth inning, smashing a two-run single to score Glennie and Brady Marwede and give the Wildcats a 5-0 lead. Skiba earlier in the inning on an error.

Skiba led Alpena with two hits and Styma, Tucker, Atkinson and Dylan Hoes each had one.

Sault didn’t fare much better against Alpena’s pitching in the second game. Atkinson got the start in the nightcap and allowed just one run on two hits with five strikeouts in four innings.

Andy Marwede pitched the final 2 1/3 inning, allowing a run on one hit.

“I was really happy with them,” Schultz said of his pitchers. “It’s cold, a lot of times you don’t get a handle on the ball, but they hit the strike zone all day.”

After a quiet first inning, Alpena scored three runs on three hits in the second inning. Skiba doubled in Giulio Fantasia and later scored on a passed ball. Brad Styma also scored for later in the inning.

Sault finally broke a 10-inning scoreless stretch in the fourth inning when Nick LaCross scored on a passed ball. The Blue Devils added a run in the sixth inning when Matt Sirk doubled to score Michael James.

Alpena managed just two hits in the next three innings, but left the bases loaded in the third inning. The Wildcats added another run in the sixth inning when Styma scored on a passed ball.

Skiba had two hits for Alpena and Hoes, Fantasia and Evan Hamp each had one.

Schultz was very pleased with his team’s effort to battle through the cold and make the right plays when it needed to.

“Mentally the kids have to battle through it,” Schultz said of the weather. “It’s the same for both teams, but a lot of times the team that can handle it mentally and fight through it (wins).”

Alpena hosts Cheboygan on Thursday.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.