GLADSTONE - Prior to Tuesday night's baseball game, there were doubts among many whether Justin Malmstead would be ready to play.
Malmstead, who plays for the Gladstone Major Boys' Little League (age 11-12) All-Stars, was struck in the hand by a line shot while pitching near the end of Monday's area tournament opener against Escanaba.
He certainly made his presence known Tuesday, however, while helping Gladstone post a 10-0 victory over Munising in four innings.
Malmstead, the first of three Gladstone pitchers, struck out three of the five hitters he faced and finished 3-for-3 at the plate.
"It (the pitching hand) hurt pretty bad last night," said Malmstead. "But it felt pretty good tonight. I think we played great. Our pitching was real good and we made some good plays in the field."
The victory sends Gladstone to the District 10 tournament at Iron Mountain where it will face the winner of the Iron Mountain area tourney Friday at 8 p.m. (EDT).
Munising returns to Howes Family Field to face Esky tonight at 6.
Malmstead opened the scoring with a two-run homer to centerfield in the opening frame, added an infield single in a five-run second and led off the fourth with a triple to center.
"Two hours before the game, I didn't think he'd play," said Gladstone manager Erick Hansen. "Justin told me he was ready, and I wanted to try him for 20 pitches. The fact that he pitched so well, so soon after a hand injury was a pleasant surprise."
Tuesday's triumph came on the heels of Monday's 16-2 conquest of Esky in four frames, with Gladstone pitching by committee in both games.
"We were able to save all our pitchers," said Hansen. "It was huge for us to close out both games in four innings. We're anxious to see who we match up with in Iron Mountain."
Zach Hanson and Ian Schwalbach shared the mound duties with Malmstead. They combined on a one-hitter, struck out nine and walked two.
"When you see different speeds and motions, it's difficult for hitters to adjust," said Munising manager Jim Seaberg. "It's hard to get into a groove. I think our kids played all right overall, although they're capable of playing better. We know that and they know that."
Gladstone catcher Cole Hansen also finished 3-for-3, with his third hit an RBI single to right in the fourth. Zach Hanson, who was 2-for-2, ripped a RBI double to center in the second. Schwalbach also had two hits.
"They (Gladstone) are a good ball club," said Seaberg. "They played hard and definitely deserve what they got. They're very disciplined at the plate. They could do some serious damage from the looks of it right now."
Josh Houtari, who pitched 3 1/3 innings, absorbed the loss. He struck out two, walked one and allowed nine runs on 11 hits.
In an earlier contest, Noah Lancour scored on Jacob Anderson's single to center in the fifth as Esky then hung on for a 4-3 triumph over Tri-County.
Esky trailed 3-2 after two before Ayden Hansen tied the contest on a passed ball in the third.
The winners, taking advantage of two errors, scored twice shortly after executing a double steal in the second.
Tri-County responded by scoring three times in its half of the second, taking advantage of two walks and a wild pitch.
"What we talked about before the game is knowing we had six innings to play," said Esky manager Pete Schlenvogt. "We got the hits and stolen bases when we needed them."
Both teams had four hits, with Zack Englund leading Tri-County with a pair.
"We just couldn't string anything together," said Tri-County manager Matt Rondeau. "We have to give Escanaba some of the credit for that. They made some nice plays. We had a chance to break it open in the second, then we had a strikeout and their catcher made a nice play."
Anderson, who pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief of Lancour, took the win. He struck out one, walked none and allowed a single to center by Englund in the fifth.
"The kids had a lot of confidence in Jake," said Schlenvogt. "The game got played the way it was supposed to. We threw strikes and made the defensive plays."
Englund worked 5 1/3 innings and took the loss. He fanned 11, walked one, hit a batter and allowed four runs on four hits.
Tri-County, however, committed three errors.
"We have good ballplayers," said Rondeau. "We played well overall, only we had little bit of tough luck."