Boomer escapes 7th-inning bases-loaded jam, as Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard splits CHSL twinbill with University Liggett
YPSILANTI — With two starting pitchers on the shelf, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard has needed sophomore knuckleballer Reilly Boomer more than they ever expected.
He’s come through for the Irish, too, nowhere bigger than in Wednesday’s Catholic League doubleheader against perennial state power Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett.
Boomer recorded a game-ending strikeout to strand the bases loaded, preserving a 2-1 win for Gabriel Richard, clinching a split for the Irish, who had lost Game 1 by a 4-1 score.
“It was really funny, because I had some choices to go to to get to the last hitter. It’s really hard pulling a kid in with bases loaded, two outs. I figure Reilly earned the right to finish that baseball game,” Gabriel Richard coach Greg Lenhoff said. “They were taking the first strike. You could see that. Even though it’s 3-2 ball, I know their coach (Dan Cimini) and the way he plays ball. I could see he was having his kids take the first strike, so when we got the first one on him, then he could go to all those knuckleballs, and everything else he was throwing to the plate.”
It’s a huge win for the Irish (6-5, 2-4 CHSL), who are ranked No. 13 in Division 2, especially in a division that includes Liggett (4-2, 4-2 CHSL), the No. 3 team in Division 3 according to the latest coaches poll, along with Riverview Gabriel Richard, the No. 1 team in D3.
“Well, it’s an awful young team, and when you’re playing a perennial champion like Liggett, and you’re throwing a knuckleballer against them, you don’t know sometimes what you’re going to get,” admitted Lenhoff, whose team has lost its share of close games. “I think morale-wise, going into the break, it did the kids a lot of good. They’ve been scuffling a bit. They’re up and down. It’s the age — the inconsistency of their age. A win like that can only make them more confident.”
The fact that there were just seven total hits in the nightcap was emblematic of the struggles both teams have had with the bats early on, as pitching is far ahead of the hitting.
“We’re just not swinging the bats right now. We’re hitting long fly balls for outs, line drives, not getting good at-bats. Struggling with that, which there’s no reason we should’ve, but that’s what happens. That’s baseball,” Cimini said. “And it’s early. At this time of the year, wind blowing all over the place. I mean, our pitching and defense has been great, just our bats — if we hit, we’re fine. If we don’t, we’re not. That’s what happened today.”
Gabriel Richard took a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the third inning, as Scott McGlade’s RBI double to the left-center gap broke the scoreless tie. He would score on a single by Connor Ostrowski to deep center.
The Knights cut the deficit in half in the sixth when pitcher Logan King helped his own cause with an RBI single. Liggett seemed to have the momentum, but Boomer wiggled out of the two-on, one-out jam with a 4-6-3 double play to keep it a one-run game.
“The double play was gigantic. If we get a single there … Once we tie the game, we’re fine, but we just never got it to that point. It happens. It happens to the best of them. I’m not going put too much stock into one loss. If we lose because we don’t hit, I’ll take that all day long. If we pitch and play defense, we’re fine,” Cimini said. “It’s a bummer to lose, but tip your hat to them. They made a ton of great plays. Hit some rockets at guys, and they made some great plays.”
Boomer got more help from his defense in the seventh, as third baseman Scott McGlade made a diving stop to start the inning, and snared a line shot for the second out, with a runner in scoring position.
“The (game-ending) strikeout was good, but some of the plays we got at third base, those were big-time plays,” Lenhoff said of Scott McGlade. “He is (a college player). He’s got the skill level to do that. He’s a senior — and we’ve only got two of them out there. They were making the plays — center field (Ostrowski) and third base — and that’s what they’re out there for. They’ve got the leadership skills. That’s what you hope for, that the kids that can lead, do.”
It was the first game back in the field for Ostrowski, who had been DH’ing after a torn labrum kept him off the mound.
“He had relegated himself — his surgeon kind of said ‘Look, maybe you shouldn’t be throwing the ball. I talked to him, talked to his parents — I’ve had two operations myself, so I’m like ‘Connor, I don’t think you’re going to hurt it any more than that.’ So he made the choice. He said ‘You’re right coach. I don’t really feel like I’m a whole part of the team being the DH, so let me go out there,’” Lenhoff said. “It just turns the whole game around with him out there. He made some nice plays out in center field. This game would’ve been 8-2 a couple of weeks ago.”
The Irish are also missing Brendan Hands, who tore his meniscus in basketball.
“It’s not an excuse, but our staff’s pretty beat up,” Lenhoff said. “We’ve got one with a labrum tear, and one with a meniscus, and that’s your (No.) 2 and 3 pitchers. Boomer coming out of nowhere as a sophomore has been a very pleasant surprise.”
While Boomer went the distance in the nightcap, Scott McGlade took the complete-game loss in the opener, striking out seven and walking five. Alec Azar struck out six and walked one in seven innings for the win for Liggett, which got a nine-strikeout performance from King in the nightcap.
Nicholas Post’s RBI single gave Liggett a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the opener, then the Knights stretched it to 3-0 with a pair of runs in the second, plating on Matthew Greene’s blooper into the outfield, and a sacrifice fly by Billy Kopicki. Gabriel Richard got one back in the bottom of the second, as John Hammerstein doubled on a blooper down the right-field line, and scored on a single to center by Geno Cousino, but the Irish got no closer.
Liggett got an insurance run on a throwing error in the top of the seventh to make it 4-1, then Azar sent the Irish down in order to close it out.
“First game, we got great pitching, great defense. We got great pitching in that (second) game. Gave up two runs. If we can’t score two runs in a game, we shouldn’t win anyway,” Cimini said. “It’s frustrating, but we just turn the page, forget about it, build off it. Our bats will heat up. It’s just a matter of time.”