BASEBALL: Mt. Pleasant rolls past Richmond to pick up Division 2 state championship
EAST LANSING – Throughout the majority of its postseason run, Mt. Pleasant has made its trip to the state finals look easy as the Oilers used stellar starting pitching to cruise into the state championship game on Saturday morning.
With Aaron Leasher on the mound against Richmond, the Oilers got one last sparkling effort from their starter as the senior ace pitched a complete game to lead Mt. Pleasant to a 7-2 win over Richmond and to its first state title since 2007.
Mt. Pleasant skipper Luke Epple said that after his team struggled in its playoff opener, it refocused in the following practices and proceeded to start rolling through the postseason as the Oilers outscored opponents 29-4 in their final five games.
“We had a pre-district game that we didn’t play that well in, but we struggled in that game a little bit with our bats and Saginaw Swan Valley gave us a game,” he said. “We looked at that game and said we’re going back to work and we worked hard and practiced and we worked on those things so it wouldn’t happen again.”
The Oilers got the scoring going early as they took a 1-0 lead on a sac fly from Zach Heeke in the first inning.
Then, in the third inning, Mt. Pleasant pushed three runs across the plate as a balk brought in one run and an RBI single from Hunter Buczkowski followed by a sac fly from Joe Genia gave the Oilers a 4-0 lead heading to the fourth.
That would be more than enough run support for Leasher, who was locked in from the start as the senior scattered four hits and allowed two unearned runs while striking out seven batters to earn the win on the mound.
“My fastball was working well, in the first couple of innings, I couldn’t get my curveball across in the early innings,” Leasher said. “My fastball was really working well and as the game went on, I started working it and started to get my curveball across as well.”
Mt. Pleasant tacked another run on in the fifth inning on a squeeze bunt from Maxwell Trucks scored a run and the Oilers then scored two more runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach when Robert Backus hit a two RBI single to make it 7-0.
Richmond did battle back in the seventh inning, scoring two runs, the first on a sac fly from Nick Ottenbacher and an RBI from Jake Schmidt to bring the Blue Devils to within five, 7-2.
“When we have seven runs, we’re good at that point and we can just trade outs for runs so that was our mindset,” Leasher said. “Just stay calm, we’re three outs away from winning a state championship and we battled through.”
But that’s all Leasher would allow as he slammed the door shut and induced a fly out to right fielder Dean Marais to seal the win for the Oilers
Leasher said that watching the final out be recorded by Marais was something that he had been envisioning since the Oilers advanced to the championship game on Thursday.
“That’s a great feeling,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about that out for I don’t know how long, just getting that last out and the feeling you’re going to have and it’s exactly what I thought it would be.