BASEBALL: Two-hit shutout from McClelland leads Brighton past West Bloomfield for regional title
NOVI – On Saturday afternoon, Colin McClelland was a man on a mission.
After Brighton earned a 9-3 win over Novi in the first regional semifinal of the day behind a big, six run sixth inning, the Bulldogs handed the ball to the McClelland looking to reach the Division 1 quarterfinals.
And the junior ace would not disappoint.
McClelland turned in a dominant two-hit shutout performance to lead Brighton to the Division 1 quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over West Bloomfield, which outlasted Northville to reach the regional championship game.
Brighton skipper Charlie Christner praised his players for their performance this postseason after a disappointing 2013 season, which saw the Bulldogs bounced in the playoff opener by a no-hitter from Walled Lake Western’s Andrew Gonzalez.
Brighton now advances to the Division 1 quarterfinals where it will face Clarkston, which topped Lakeland for a regional title of its own, on Tuesday back at Novi high school.
“It’s a big deal for us, at Brighton, we’ve played in a lot of big games like this,” he said. “Last year, we had good players, but we ran into (Andrew) Gonzalez, who was outstanding that day and to come back and do what we’ve done this year is a testament to these boys over here who have worked hard all year.”
Brighton got the scoring started in the second inning as the Bulldogs scored on a balk, the fourth West Bloomfield balk of the day that scored a run, which gave Brighton a 1-0 advantage early on.
That would prove to be all the run-support McClelland would need as he was in cruise control from start to finish, allowing just one base-runner in his first four innings of work, silencing a West Bloomfield squad that plated 31 runs in its three games of district play.
“I was feeling good,” McClelland said of his outing. “I knew I had a great defense behind me, so I really wanted to throw strikes and let them hit it, because I know my defense was going to make plays for me.”
Brighton pushed across another run to take a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when a Justin Steele RBI single scored Alexander Dixon.
West Bloomfield starter Chandler Sedat nearly matched McClelland’s outing on Saturday, allowing just two runs in the regional final and also earned the save on the mound for the Lakers in the semifinal game, recording the final two outs of a 4-3 win over Northville.
West Bloomfield coach Eric Pierce said that Sedat is one of the top pitchers in the class of 2015 and showed exactly why with his performance on Saturday.
“For those people who don’t think he’s a huge name for the 2015 class, he’s got to be one of the best ones, he’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “The poise that he has, the command of the three pitches that he has, he’s going to be getting a lot of offers this summer, I’m sure.”
But McClelland stole the show, stymieing the Laker bats and worked a quick and easy 1-2-3 seventh inning to secure the regional title for the Bulldogs.
“I thought he was strong for much of the day,” Christner said of McClelland’s outing. “He was outstanding all day, he really kept them off balance and that’s a good hitting team that they’ve got over there and he kept them off balance all day today and we felt he could do that with the offspeed pitches that he has.”
In the first game of the day, the Bulldogs used a strong outing from Alexx Zielinski, who limited Novi to three runs in five innings of work before giving way to Carson Hopman entered for the final two innings.
With the game knotted at 3-3, Brighton used a six run seventh, highlighted by a Richard Poroski three-RBI double and another three-run two base hit from Steele gave the Bulldogs the 9-3 win.