A missed opportunity

A fast start looked promising for the Alpena High baseball team on Thursday. But a sputtering finish ultimately dashed the Wildcats’ hopes for victory.

Despite leading Traverse City Central 3-1 after five innings, the Wildcats were plagued by a few mistakes in the sixth inning and watched the Trojans rally for a 5-3 win.

The second game of the scheduled doubleheader was called in the bottom of the first inning due to thunderstorms.

In the opener, Griffin Cencer led off the top of the sixth inning with a double for the Trojans and eventually scored on a passed ball. The next batter, Cam Fewless singled and advanced to third after a stolen base and a passed ball. After John Pupil drew a walk to load the bases, Marty Foley flew to right for an out.

Alpena (14-6-1, 6-2 Big North) appeared to have avoided trouble for the moment, but a throw from the outfield to home plate sailed to the backstop and allowed Cencer and Fewless to score to tie the game 3-3.

Sam Briggs followed with an RBI triple to give Central the lead and the Trojans added one more run in their turn at the plate.

It proved to be enough to hold off the Wildcats who went 1-2-3 in the final two innings. After scoring three runs on five hits in the first three innings, Alpena was held to just two hits over the final four innings and stranded six baserunners for the game.

“I was a little disappointed because we got up early and then sat on (the lead),” Alpena coach Phil Schultz said. “We fell apart mentally and we didn’t do the little things to keep ourselves (in the game).”

Central’s big inning spoiled an otherwise solid performance by Alpena pitcher Dylan Tucker and the Wildcats’ defense. Through five innings, Tucker allowed just five hits and the Trojans stranded eight runners. The Trojans loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning, but a groundout to first base ended the threat.

Tucker pitched into the sixth inning before being relieved by Ben Budnick.

Nick Skiba gave Alpena an early lead in the first inning when he singled home Rhett Limback. Two batters later, Bailey Marquardt scored Braeden Werth on an RBI groundout.

The Wildcats added a run in the third inning when Joe Ayala’s RBI double scored Cam Cosbitt. The third inning proved to be the last hurrah for the Wildcats as they went without a hit in the final three innings.

“We had momentum going and we had runners in scoring position, but we couldn’t bring them home,” Schultz said. “We still have that one bad inning (during games) and it hurts us.”

The Trojans stranded a base runner in the top of the first inning of the nightcap and Alpena had Werth on first with two outs in the bottom of the first before lightning was spotted and play was halted. After a downpour began and more lightning flashes, the umpires called the game.

Alpena plays in a tournament at Saginaw Heritage this weekend along with Farwell, Heritage and Saginaw Swan Valley.

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