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Flint Metro champ Flushing overcomes shaky defense, wins slugfest against Midland Dow to move on to regional finals

By: Matthew B. Mowery, June 5, 2019, 10:00 pm

FLUSHING — An artistic masterpiece it was not, but — well, you’re not judged on how pretty it is at this point of the season.

Despite a whopping eight errors, the Flushing Raiders fell back on their offense to bail them out in a slugfest of a Division 1 regional semifinal against Midland Dow, pulling out an ugly-but-welcome 10-8 win, and moving on.

“It’s just survive and advance, at this point. It’s gotta be one of the worst games we’ve played defensively. But we battled at the plate, we did what we needed to do, and somehow, we came out on top,” Flushing coach Stephen Burdis said of the game that had seven lead changes, and wasn’t settled until the bottom of the sixth.

“That’s how we’ve been all year. We haven’t played that badly all that often. Kind of reminded me of the Holly game where we got lucky and beat them 11-10 in nine innings, or something like that. Normally, we play good defense and get some clutch hitting, but when we haven’t played well, our batters bail us out. …

“It’s huge. We wanted to get to this Saturday.”

Champions of the Flint Metro League, the Raiders (30-5) move on to the regional finals at Hudsonville on Saturday, where they’ll face Traverse City West for the right to play in the Super Regional game to follow.

If they get past that, it’ll be uncharted territory for a Flushing program that’s never gotten past quarterfinals in four tries.

“It’s huge for our team to get this win. We’ve got four more games left, and eyes on the prize, still,” said freshman Jake Morrison, noting the consistent message in the dugout of: “We’ll always pick each other up, always battle through, and no matter what, we will win this game.”

Morrison got the win in four innings of relief, setting down the side in order in the top of the seventh to prevent one last comeback by the Chargers (26-11-2).

The offense for the Raiders did need to pick up the defense, at times, as Dow took advantage of the miscues by playing a little bit of small ball, and forcing the issue, and coming back to regain the lead with three-run rallies in the third and fourth, and a solo run in the fifth to tie it up at 8-8. 

“We just gotta keep doing what we do. One of the biggest things we try to do — which we did not do a good job of today — is moving on from mistakes. We can’t have four mistakes in a row,” Burdis said. “But where we did do a good job was at the plate. We were down early, and when our defense let us down, we came back with the bats.”

And once the Raiders battled back to take the lead one last time in the bottom of the sixth, it was hard for the Chargers to come back one last time.

“We just couldn’t go to the well the third time. They got ahead in that last part, and it was just too much for us,” Dow coach Rich Juday said. “Our players that are going to be returning next year are going to use that as a learning lesson, because of that. They’re going to realize that you just can’t do that (fall behind repeatedly). Our pitchers, all season long, have commanded the mound. I don’t think we commanded the mound today, we just kept coming back offensively. That’s what makes our team what we are. We fight for each other  and keep coming back. Our pitchers, when they have a great game, sometimes our offense isn’t having a great game. But we get by, because we have good pitching — and you should see us when they’re both clicking.”

Both offenses certainly were, making the game look like a ping-pong match, with the lead trading hands in six consecutive half-innings. 

Dow jumped ahead 1-0 in the second on Jacob Stone’s RBI groundout, but Flushing answered with a four-run second inning, highlighted by a three-run double by Grayson Makranyi. 

The Chargers regained the lead with a three-run third, marked by back-to-back wall-banging doubles by Shane Juday and Avain Rivera, making it 4-4, but Flushing went back ahead in the bottom of the third, as the rains came pelting down. One run scored on Noah Matheson’s RBI single, another when Joe Jaruzel was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, making it a 6-4 Flushing lead.

Morrison certainly had some nerves when he entered the game at that point, given all the offense that had been flying around, and contributed by booting the ball twice on bunts. 

“Oh, yeah. I had a lot of nerves. I was really energetic, and made two errors right off the bat. That did not help,” he admitted. “The boys raked the ball today. Absolutely smacked it. That helped me, because I could give up a couple runs — I probably shouldn’t have, but I had that cushion.”

Dow tied it at 6-6 on a sacrifice fly by Juday, and took a 7-6 lead on Micheal Erickson’s RBI groundout. 

That lasted until the bottom of the fourth, when back-to-back RBI singles by Logan Walker and Matheson put Flushing back on top, 8-7.

Dow took advantage of one last Flushing error in the sixth, getting the leadoff man on, and bringing him home on Erickson’s sacrifice fly to tie it at 8-8. 

Matt Birchmeier drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the inning, and scored on a double by Jaruzel to put Flushing back in the lead, then — after Morrison got down a bunt — an error on Makranyi’s grounder gave the Raiders a two-run cushion.