St. Mary’s defeats Mt. Pleasant for first state title since ’03 behind Loukinen’s gem
East Lansing – Greg Loukinen said that even on a stage the size of Saturday’s State Championship game at Michigan State University, he doesn’t really get nervous.
So after Mt. Pleasant got a run off of him early on, scoring a run in the first inning, Loukinen wasn’t bothered.
And it showed.
The Orchard Lake St. Mary’s senior left-hander settled in after that as he turned in a complete game performance to help lead the Eaglets to a 4-1 win over defending state champion Mt. Pleasant, earning the first Division 2 state championship for St. Mary’s since 2003.
“I didn’t have any nerves,” he said. “I take after my teammate, Drake Titus, he doesn’t let anything affect him, so after I gave up that run, I didn’t let that affect me and just kept throwing.”
After Mt. Pleasant got a run in the first inning on an RBI from Maxwell Trucks, St. Mary’s responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning on a pair of wild pitches.
In the second inning, the Eaglets would take the lead on an RBI double from Joe Carlini, followed by a two-out single from Drake Titus to drive in another run to put St. Mary’s on top, 3-1.
St. Mary’s would later increase its lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning on an RBI single from Harrison Salter.
St. Mary’s coach Matt Petry credited his team’s timely hitting for being the difference in Saturday’s game.
“Obviously, they’re a very good team,” he said. “But we got three timely hits from Joe Carlini, Harrison Salter and Drake Titus, so those were big hits for us.”
From there, Loukinen was in complete control as he scattered five hits over seven innings of work, while striking out seven batters on the day.
“He changed speeds, but he got ahead with his fastball,” Petry said of Loukinen’s outing. “He was able to get outs early in the count, I think there was one inning that he got through in five or six pitches, but pitching to contact and not walking guys and that’s what made him successful all year.”
In the seventh inning, Loukinen allowed two Mt. Pleasant batters to reach base, but after a mound visit with two outs, he struck out the final batter, clinching the win for the Eaglets.
“I didn’t really have a mindset,” Loukinen said of the seventh inning. “I just figured I’d keep throwing my pitches, my coach told me I got it and that I’m alright and we’re going to win this game.”
For St. Mary’s, a year ago, the Eaglets were one of the favorites heading into the state tournament, but were upset in the first round and while the Eaglets weren’t expected to make a run to a championship this season, Petry said he knew his team had a shot during a strong stretch in Catholic League play this spring.
“About halfway through the year, we went on a pretty good streak in the Catholic League,” he said. “That’s when I realized this team had an opportunity to be special, we have great leadership from our seniors and even some of our juniors that got us going.”
Loukinen credited his team’s play behind him defensively and said that this year’s trip to the finals seemed unlikely in the beginning, but the Eaglets kept their focus all year long.
“It means everything,” he said. “It’s not just me pitching, it’s the defense, it’s the bats, it’s everything. Last year, we were cut off early in the first round of districts and now we made it all the way to states. It didn’t seem like it was possible at the beginning of the year, but now it is and we won.”