Pitching leads Hartland, Portage Northern into Division 1 State Title Game
East Lansing – Chances are, when Hartland sophomore Kyle Kletzka started off the season on the junior varsity team, he didn’t expect to have an opportunity to pitch high leverage situation late in the postseason
But on Thursday morning, Kletzka took the mound with a chance to lead his team to the Division 1 state championship game.
And the 5-9 sophomore didn’t disappoint.
Kletzka turned in a complete game shutout performance as he helped lead Hartland to a 5-0 win over Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills to send the Eagles to their first state title game in school history.
Kletzka said that he hadn’t pitched since the district final, where he threw three innings and added that when he took the mound, there were some nerves, but those went away quickly.
“I haven’t pitched in a while,” he said. “I was kind of nervous going out there, but after the first pitch, that all went away. Without my defense, I wouldn’t have been able to win this game and I’m proud of everybody.”
After Hartland pushed its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly and a hit by pitch with the bases loaded, Kletzka was in full control, silencing the Kenowa Hills bats.
While Hartland coach Brian Morrison said he only expected to throw Kletzka for four, maybe five innings, he said he could see the sophomore in control through four innings and his catch on a line drive and throw over to first to end the fifth inning, he was ready to let him go the rest of the way.
“I think it was about the fourth inning,” he said. “We got another run or two to make it 4-0 and that was right about where we thought we’d have to pull him. We thought we could get through the lineup once, maybe twice and try to go to somebody different. But we got the extra runs and that allowed to go and see what happened and he got through the inning. The line drive double play was huge for him, it pumped him up, made him realize how close he was and he brought it home after that.”
Kletzka, who admitted that he only expected to go five innings or so, added that he didn’t think he’d throw a shutout, but did have confidence that his team would be moving on
“I was expecting them to get a couple of runs,” he said. “But I knew that when we came out, we were going to win. It was going to be all over, we were going to the state championship.”
In the first inning, Hartland got on the scoreboard on an RBI single by Gary Turnbull and the Eagles mwould plate another run on an overthrow.
The two first inning runs for Hartland along with two strikeouts to start the game for Kletzka were a big confidence boost for the sophomore.
“It boosted it tremendously,” he said. “I just wanted to go out there and win, it was a little nerve-racking at the end, but overall, it was a good feeling.”
Hartland’s final run of the game came in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single off the bat of Max Hendricks.
Junior John Baker is expected to pitch for Hartland in the Division 1 final on Saturday at 9:00 am at Michigan State.
Portage Northern 8, Grosse Pointe South 0
East Lansing – Before even registering a hit in Thursday’s Division 1 semifinal, Portage Northern already had a commanding 5-0 lead over Grosse Pointe South.
Taking advantage of five errors in the first two innings, Northern had a 6-0 lead after two innings and rolled its way to an 8-0 win to advance to the Division 1 state finals for the first time in school history.
Northern coach Chris Andrews said that the defensive errors by South and his team’s ability to take advantage was obviously a key for his team.
“That was big,” he said. “Them not making the routine plays gave us the momentum and our pitchers are just great at pounding the strike zone, pitching backwards and the defense came through.”
Staked to a 6-0 lead, Northern starter Blake Therrian was in control from there and while South would put runners in scoring position, Therrian would work out of trouble without allowing a run to score.
Therrian said that it obviously makes his job easier on the mound when his team gives him a big early lead.
“It’s easier when we do that,” he said. “It is for me and everybody else, it puts us in a relaxed mode and we can just play.”
Therrian pitched six scoreless innings, while scattering eight hits to earn the win for Northern.
Andrews credited Therrian’s ability to pitch out of trouble to his mental preparation and the fact he doesn’t get flustered.
“Blake’s the master of the mental game,” he said. “He has been since he was a sophomore and that’s what’s so nice about having him out there, he does not get rattled. He keeps his composure and he’s like another coach out there to be honest.”
Northern ace Tommy Henry will take the mound for the Huskies in Saturday at 9:00 am back at Michigan State.