Cousins Joel and Connor Brawley lead Stevensville Lakeshore past GR West Catholic in D2 quarterfinal, 4-3
Holland – It’s not hard to figure out what it’ll take for the Stevensville Lakeshore baseball team to defend its state title.
The Lancers once again flashed its deep and experienced pitching staff in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Grand Rapids West Catholic in a Division 2 quarterfinal at Hope College.
After a pair of complete-game wins in Saturday’s regionals, Lakeshore senior Joel Brawley scattered eight hits and his cousin Connor Brawley retired the game’s final four batters as the Lancers moved to within two wins of winning back-to-back state titles.
The Brawleys each recorded victories in Saturday’s regionals as each threw fewer than 75 pitches. According to Michigan High School Athletic Association guidelines, pitchers who throw 105 pitches have a mandatory three days rest. The strength of pitching mirrors last year’s club which won its state title with a 1-0 win over Bay City John Glenn.
"We have good depth, especially guys who can come in and pump strikes," Joel Brawley said. "That’s our motto. Everyone has confidence in everyone else."
The win sends Lakeshore into Thursday’s 9 a.m. semifinal against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at Michigan State.
Brawley pitched out of trouble several times and stranding six runners in 5 2/3 innings. He was staked to a 3-1 lead after two innings following an RBI double by Bray Plomb in the first inning, a run-scoring single by Logan Morrow and a sacrifice fly by Trey Thibeault in the second.
The Falcons never led, closing to within 3-2 in the sixth.
Lakeshore coach Mark Nate said teams need at least three pitchers to contend for a title. The team’s third pitcher is Morrow, who has greatly contributed to the team’s 25-14 record.
"You need 21 outs to advance. We haven’t had to go there yet," he said of needing three pitchers. "Our first and second pitchers have been available and we’ve rode them."
Lakeshore’s final run came on Oli Carmody’s RBI single in the fifth.
Tyler Hofman and Spencer Vainavicz had RBI singles for West Catholic, and Matt Bilski doubled and tripled and scored two runs.
Nate said there was pressure early in the season about repeating, talk that was expected for a club that returned seven starters.
"I think everyone felt they had to step up," he said. "Everyone felt like they had to be the one. But in reality, this is a whole new group. There are new guys mixed with old players. It was tough for everyone to mesh, but now everyone understands their roles. It’s like a brotherhood."
West Catholic coach George Rosinski, whose team also won a regional in 2017, said starting pitcher Nick Kimball did everything he could to keep the team in the game. He scattered eight hits and pitched well in the clutch as the Lancers stranded seven runners, five in scoring position.
"We’ve been in this position before and he pitched well," Rosinski said. "He did everything we asked and Lakeshore’s hitters did what they had to do. They just chipped out a few hits. It was two good pitchers going after each other. They both threw strikes and were dealing."