BASEBALL: Steward delivers again, pitches Clarkston past Brighton and into Division 1 state semifinals
NOVI – Three days after pitching Clarkston into the Division 1 state quarterfinals behind a dazzling effort over six and one-third innings, it would be hard to expect much more out of Clarkston senior David Steward.
However, Steward’s encore performance was perhaps even better on Tuesday afternoon in a quarterfinals showdown with Brighton.
Steward was dominant once again on Tuesday, allowing just one run on seven hits to lead Clarkston to a 4-1 win over Brighton to lead the Wolves to the Division 1 state semifinals.
Clarkston will play in the state semifinals on Thursday at Michigan State, where the Wolves will face defending Division 1 state champion Bay City Western, which picked up a 2-0 win over Jenison on Tuesday afternoon.
Steward said that despite only having three days of rest, his arm still felt good and ready to go and credited his team’s three run first inning for giving him and the rest of the team momentum going forward.
“My arm feels good, it’s not hurting and it hasn’t really hurt this season and I was just ready to pitch,” he said. “It’s just the momentum thing, it just kept us going and I think that’s what helped us win the game.”
The only trouble Steward really found himself in on Tuesday was in the seventh inning when Brighton put runners on second and third with just one out, bringing the tying run to the plate.
However, Steward would strikeout the next batter and then, a line drive hit to deep center field was tracked down by center fielder Jacob Armstrong, who made a running catch back towards the warning track to seal the win for the Wolves.
“There were two outs and runners on second and third and I saw it go up and I knew I could get to it and I knew I had to,” Armstrong said of the fly ball hit his way in center. “I made the catch, and I just went nuts, I saw my left fielder Joe Popp running at me with the biggest smile in the world on his face. It was just a good feeling.”
While Brighton was threatening in the seventh inning, Steward said he still wasn’t too nervous, and just focused on the batter, who presented the tying run, in each of the next two at bats.
“We were ahead by three,” he said. “So I was just trying to get through the batters and not pay attention to people on base, just do what I’m supposed to do.”
The Wolves wasted little time finding some breathing room on Tuesday afternoon, as Clarkston left fielder Joe Popp connected for a two-run double to put his team on top 2-0, and shortly after, Steward helped his own cause with an RBI single to put the Wolves on top, 3-0 after one inning.
Clarkston skipper Phil Price said that Steward is a pitcher that the rest of his team rallies around and also credited the rest of his team for its contributions throughout the game.
“He’s a kid that you want on your team, he’s a pitcher, not just a thrower and the kids rally around him,” he said. “But you had other kids that did a phenomenal job, he did a great job hitting for us, Joe Popp came up with a big double in the first inning. But our leadoff guy sets the tone getting on base, then the next guy puts a bunt down and they (Brighton) don’t execute and then we have runners on and that’s what we’re about.”
Clarkston will face Bay City Western at 5 p.m. at Michigan State on Thursday as Michigan State signee Nate Witt will take the mound for the Wolves according to Price, looking to send the Wolves to the state title game.