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Saline tops Northville 5-2 to claim first baseball title in school history

By: Jeff Dullack, June 17, 2017, 2:40 pm

East Lansing – On Saturday, the wait was finally over for Saline.

While Saline was playing in the Division 1 Final for the fifth time in 10 years and the sixth time in school history, the Hornets had never captured the state championship that has seemingly eluded their program for the past 20 years.

Facing Northville in their second straight championship game appearance, Saline would jump out to an early lead thanks in large part to three first inning runs and would hold off the Mustangs for a 5-2 win to claim the program’s first baseball title in school history.

Saline head coach Scott Theisen said that he felt that his team being able to get on the board early played a big role in Saturday’s game considering the Hornets were facing a team that was making its first finals appearance.

“It’s not like we smacked the ball around,” he said. “We took advantage of some early game nerves and maybe being here in the past helped us in that regard – maybe batting first helped us in that regard. Our hitters were disciplined, I thought, they didn’t try to do too much, if they were going to walk us, we took it and later in the game, I thought Foley’s aggressiveness was a big run. He turned that single into a double and stole third and came home on the passed ball.”

After Saline scored its three runs in the first on a pair of bases loaded walks and a sacrifice fly from Kellan Huang, the Hornets extended their lead in the fourth inning when senior Ryan Foley would account for a double, a steal and a run scored on a passed ball to give his team the 4-0 advantage.

Foley said that after falling behind early in last year’s Finals loss to Warren De La Salle, he felt that it was important for the Hornets to get out to the early lead like they did on Saturday.

“We knew we could stay calm and not let the moment get to us,” he said. “I think it was huge to get out to that early lead, last year, we fell behind 5-0, so we were playing from behind. This year, I think we sat on our heels a little once we got a few runs, but we just had to keep our composure and I think that helped with having a lot of our guys have experience in a state title game.”

Folely, who finished the game going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, received his first scholarship offer from Wayne State after the game.

Northville would respond in the fourth inning as the Mustangs plated two runs to cut the deficit in half after an RBI triple by Jack Sargent and a sac fly off the bat of Michael Lionas.

Northville skipper John Kostrzewa said that he felt his team had several opportunities to score runs throughout the game, but the Saline defense, which turned three double plays on the day, was able to limit the Mustangs to two runs.

“I think ultimately it was the first inning nerves and jitters and the double plays we hit into,” he said. “We had 10 hits, but we scored two runs, that’s not going to happen very often. Credit them for making the plays, we had squandered opportunities and other than a bad first inning, it was a game.”

Saline would also add an insurance run in the sixth inning when Huang would score on a wild pitch to push the Hornets’ lead to 5-2.

Earning the win on the day for Saline was Paul Kiyabu, who was one of four pitchers used by Saline in the win.

Theisen said that he didn’t expect to rely on his pitching depth on Saturday afternoon, but credited his rotation for being able to step up throughout the game.

“We knew we had some deep pitching,” he said. “I’m sure John (Kostrzewa) would say the same, we kind of felt like our starters, one and two, would pitch the bulk of this game, but as it turns out, that probably wasn’t the case. The pitchers weren’t as sharp as they’ve been earlier in the year and the middle of the year so you look to other guys to step up and pull the rope as we say and we had all of the guys step up and so did they.”