Red-hot St. Mary’s out-squeezes U-D Jesuit to earn ticket back to Comerica Park, to play for the CHSL championship
TROY — One good squeeze does not necessarily lead to another.
A half-inning after Orchard Lake St. Mary’s successfully got down the suicide squeeze to make Saturday’s Catholic League A-B tournament semifinal a 2-0 game, University of Detroit Jesuit tried its own squeeze, and got popped.
And that was the last great chance the Cubs had against OLSM ace Logan Wood, who finished off a two-hit shutout to send the No. 4-ranked Eaglets back to Comerica Park for the CHSL championship.
They’ll take on Detroit Catholic Central, a 4-2 winner over Birmingham Brother Rice in the other A-B semifinal on Saturday.
“Oh, it’s great,” Wood said. “We’ve got unfinished business there from last year.”
Last year, Warren De La Salle ended Brother Rice’s streak of six straight league championships, taking advantage of St. Mary’s wild pitching to come from behind for a 15-8 win, denying the Eaglets their first CHSL title.
This year’s version of the Eaglets (23-9-2) have had more issues on their mind than just returning to Comerica to avenge that loss, though, starting 4-7, before turning things around on their spring break trip. They’re unbeaten in their last 17 games, having given up two or fewer runs in each of those contests.
But it’s still nice to be headed back to Comerica.
“It is. Especially with the way we started our season. We found a way to lose games early, and we’ve kind of turned it around here the last month or so,” coach Matt Petry said. “Well, we just started a complete game. Our pitching has been very good all year. I think 17 straight games, we haven’t given up more than two runs, and now our bats have come alive, now that the weather’s warming up. …
“The guys on that spring break trip bonded, and I think our leaders said, ‘Hey, enough’s enough.’ We knew the type of team we had, talent-wise. We just wanted to start showing it on the field.”
“Yeah, we bonded together, we had team dinners, all that stuff. We hung out every day. Good time,” the junior said. “Now we’re playing as a team. Rather than just good individuals, we’re playing as a team.”
When you start getting on a roll, and that roll begins to snowball, you start getting the breaks you might not have been before.
After a glorious chance to score two innings earlier went by the wayside, the Eaglets got on the board in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game, as Harrison Poeszat and Nolan Schubart started the inning off with singles, followed by an RBI double by freshman Jack Crighton. After a fly ball to center was too shallow to send the runner from third, Petry decided to twist the knife to get an add-on run, putting the suicide squeeze on.
“The kid who got the squeeze down, Cole Sibley, is a senior, and I’ve never asked him to bunt in his four years, but he takes it seriously in practice, and you never know when you’re going to be called up on to lay down a bunt, and he executed very well there,” Petry said. “It would’ve been a bang-bang play at the plate. I think he would’ve scored anyway.”
The Cubs (13-20) had it defended, but the ball just didn’t bounce as high as first baseman Aries Gardner thought it was going to, and he overran it.
“He came up on it, and tried to make a quick play. If he keeps the glove down, who knows what happens?” U-D Jesuit coach Gary Magalannes said. “Maybe he makes a play at the plate.”
Instead, it was a momentum booster for the Eaglets, who led 2-0 after Schubart slid in safely. Wood went back to the mound amped up.
“After we scored a run, I was ready to go,” said the lefty, admitting that sometimes he can get too amped up. “Depends. If you’re shaking on the mound, got a lot of adrenaline, you have to calm it down a little bit.”
Petry has seen his ace get himself under control before.
“He checks himself. He gets amped, and he’ll step off the mound and take a deep breath,” the coach said. “He’s pitched in every big game for us for three years, so he knows himself, he knows how to handle those situations.”
Gardner greeted Wood with a double down the left-field line, then moved to third on a bunt that forced an errant throw, giving the Cubs runners at the corners, setting up their own chance to pull off the squeeze.
But the batter popped it up in the air along the third-base line, and Wood managed to beat his catcher, Poeszat, to the ball, sliding under it to make the catch.
“There was a play on that I had the third base side. And that’s actually happened to me before, that exact moment. That same batter, when I was younger, did that same thing to me, and I caught it,” said Wood, who wasn’t sure that he had done it again. “I don’t know. I thought I didn’t catch it, at first, but I slid under there, got it.”
He got up and quickly scrambled to third to double off Gardner, who’d already crossed the plate.
“I saw him. He looked like he thought it was down. He thought he scored,” Wood said. “That was big. That shut them down, quieted them. That was the end, right there.”
In the confusion of the play, the trail runner, Jalen Lewis, took second, putting himself in scoring position, but Wood got a strikeout to end the inning.
“That was a heck of a play by Logan catching that. That was definitely the turning point for him,” Petry said. “He pitches with emotion, and that got him going, and I knew after that point, it was going to be tough for them.”
After the popped-up bunt, Wood retired the final seven Cubs batters in order, five of those by strikeout to finish with 13 punchouts in the game.
“We score that run right there, he gets it down, puts it in play anywhere else, obviously our runner’s going to be safe. It’s going to have to be a heck of a play to come up with it and make that throw, but with the arm that he has, there’s a chance. But it’s a 50-50 chance,” Magalannes said. “Take nothing away from Logan. He’s A-1. He’s a good pitcher. He kept us off-balance very well. Fastball was working good, slider was working good — I mean, he was just on fire. Lights out.”