BASEBALL: Bay City Western becomes first team to repeat as D-1 champions, tops GP South behind Clark’s gem
EAST LANSING – After losing 10 players from its state championship team a season ago, many of which moved on to play in college after graduation, there were obviously questions surrounding a young Bay City Western team this season.
But throughout the course of the 2014 season, the Warriors answered almost every single one of those questions except for whether or not they were capable of becoming the first team to win back-to-back state titles in Division 1 with a team that featured just three seniors and eight sophomores.
But behind the arm of sophomore pitcher Jason Clark, the Warriors answered that last question and won their second straight Division 1 state championship game, topping Grosse Pointe South with a 6-2 win on Saturday afternoon.
Western (38-7) head coach Tim McDonald said that he’s proud his team’s accomplished the feat of winning back-to-back titles, but credited this year’s team with having its own personality, while still using the same style of play that led the way to a state title last year.
“I’m proud of that fact,” he said. “There’s a certain culture of success in our baseball program even though there’s a lot of new faces and I think there’s some carry-over from last season. I’ve walked a fine line all year because you don’t want to dwell on last year too much because you can only talk about last year so much and we needed these kids to turn the page. I was very conscious of when to use last year’s team as a model, but they needed to establish their own identity and we still did it the same way with pitching, defense, base-running and bunting. It’s a simple recipe, and it doesn’t guarantee success, but it helps.”
The Warriors immediately gave their young starter some run support as they plated three runs in the first inning, starting with a two RBI double from Justin Gorr, followed by an RBI single from Hunter David to give Western a 3-0 lead early on.
From there, Clark took over as he was dominant from the start, carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning on his way to a complete game win, as he allowed just three hits and struck out five batters on the afternoon.
“It’s amazing,” Clark said of pitching in a state championship game. “Probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life. To be able to have my coaches have faith in me to pitch this game, I was just confident that I would do it for them.”
In the second inning, a two-out RBI single from Seth Freed pushed Western’s lead to 4-0 and two innings later, Freed added another run for his team when he brought in a run on a sac fly in the fourth, giving the Warriors a 5-0 lead.
After Western pushed its lead to 6-0, South finally broke through on the scoreboard when James Fishback tripled to right field to drive in a run and he later scored when Jacob Stone singled to center field.
But that would be all the offense South would be able to muster as Clark settled back in to shut down the Blue Devils and eventually secure the state championship.
The two runs surrendered today by Western is the most that the Warriors have allowed in a game this postseason and the first earned runs of the playoffs against Western.
“Jason Clark has been a big game pitcher his whole life, but this is magnified who knows how many times,” McDonald said of Clark’s outing. “I think getting off to the good start was huge, for scoring the runs and for him to get his feeling under him and I think he could smell it pitch by pitch.”