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Monday February 26, 2024
Eskymos Beat Mountaineers In Season Opener 14-4

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos, and to listen to interviews.

High school baseball is back.


It may not have been pretty, but, hey, that's what the Escanaba Eskymos and Iron Mountain Mountaineers were both saying after Wednesday night's season opener at Al Ness Field.


The teams combined to throw 268 pitches, issued 20 walks, and took 2 hours, 26 minutes to play four-and-a-half innings. But both teams left the field satisfied after Escanaba won, 14-4, under breezy, 75-degree conditions.


“I'm just so thankful to be out here with my family and my teammates and coaches,” Eskymo pitcher Ben Johnson said. “It was an awesome night. Obviously, walks are not going to help anything, but it was a good game.”


“We haven't touched a field yet because our field is still covered with snow and pretty mucky,” Mountaineers pitcher Evan Haferkorn said. “It's kind of bad to get out there right now. We're a young team right now. We've only got four seniors, three juniors, and the rest is younger kids. It's going to be rough to start, but we'll get to where we want to go.”


Escanaba used four pitchers to get prepared for a tournament this weekend in Wisconsin Dells, while the Mountaineers were just happy to be on grass after practicing inside the gym for two weeks.


The Eskymos scored four runs in the first inning when Carson McLean walked three straight batters and then tried to pick off a runner at first base and threw it away. Two runs scored on that play, and a wild pitch scored a third run. A single to right field by Lenny Peacock made it 4-0.


Bon LaChance threw the first 1 2/3 innings before reaching his 35-pitch threshold. He walked three batters and struck out four before being relieved by Peacock.


Iron Mountain reliever Niko Burgoon shut the Eskymos out on 1-2-3 second inning, Peacock ran into trouble in the top of the third when he hit the first man he faced and issued two walks. That brought up Haferkorn, who lined a two-run double past left fielder Trent Turchin to put the Mountaineers on the board. It would be the only base hit Iron Mountain would get the entire evening.


“It felt pretty good,” Haferkorn said. “Second at-bat of the season. We haven't seen any live pitching yet, so it felt good to get that hit.”


Aiden Ellis had a “productive out” when he hit a slow roller to bring home a runner from third base, bringing Iron Mountain to within 4-3.


Escanaba, though, scored seven runs in the bottom of the third inning to break it open. They sent 13 batters to the plate, and seven of them walked. Nick Chiu's RBI single to right field brought in two runs, after LaChance doubled home Johnson earlier in the inning.

The Eskymos could have had more, but Chase Cloutier couldn't get a squeeze bunt down, leaving LaChance as a dead duck off third base.


Escanaba scored three more runs in the fourth inning, with Eli Gardner singling home one run and Trent Lawson smoking a double up the gap to bring home two more runs.


Johnson threw the final two innings and struck out six batters, walking two, and allowing one unearned run.


“I was a little wild there because I haven't thrown bullpen in a while and I couldn't lock in,” Johnson said, then added, “there wasn't too many negatives (in the post-game huddle) because we're going to the Dells in a couple of days,” Johnson said. “We had a couple of bad hops out there that won't happen on turf. You always want to get a hit. I popped up that one because I swung a little too hard.”


Iron Mountain pitchers issued eleven walks, with Johnson and Cloutier both walking three times. Chiu was the only player to get two base hits in the contest.


Escanaba and Iron Mountain will face each other again in Escanaba next Wednesday night at 5:00 ET/4:00 CT. The Eskymos will play in Wisconsin Dells on Friday and Saturday.

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