Unionville-Sebewaing, Beal City take early leads and go on to win D4 semifinals
East Lansing – Unionville-Sebewaing Area led Portland St. Patrick last season 7-3 after three innings in a Division 4 semifinal. Then everything went sour as St. Patrick scored four in the fifth and four more in the seventh to win, 12-8.
USA scored four in the top of the first in Friday’s semifinal against St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic and USA coach Tyler Bader couldn’t help but recall what took place a year ago.
“In the sixth inning I was counting outs,” Bader said. “We talk about getting on teams early. We wanted to stay on top. Stay on top. Stay on top. We got out to an early lead on St. Patrick last year and look what happened.”
This time was different. This time USA’s pitchers did their job and the Patriots shut down Lake Michigan Catholic for a 5-1 victory and a spot in the state final.
In Friday’s first semifinal, Beal City scored two runs in the first and four in the second and went on to defeat Gaylord St. Mary, 7-3.
USA (22-15) will play Beal City (22-8) at 2:30 on Saturday for the Division 4 title. USA will make its first final appearance. Beal City has won three titles, the most recent in 2010.
Brendan Prime went the first 5 1/3 innings to get the victory and Devin Rickey struck out two in his 1 2/3 innings of work to put the finishing touch on an impressive pitching performance.
Prime gave up four hits, three in the first inning when the Lakers scored their run, and Riskey gave up one hit.
“I don’t think I was in a groove yet,” Prime said of his shaky first inning. “I knew they were going to put the ball in play. We read that they were a good-hitting team. I wasn’t concerned about the strikeouts. I wanted to make them hit it.
“With those four runs, when they got that run I didn’t even think about it much.”
USA batted around in the first to score those four runs, three of which were unearned. Jalen Gangler and Nicholas Lutz had RBI singles, and Braden Carter had a two-run single.
USA scored its final run in the second when Hunter Bohn scored on Myles Geiger’s infield grounder.
“How cool is this?” Bader said. “We’re pumped. We’re not happy just to be in the state championship game. Let’s go.”
For the Lakers (27-4) Jacob Kissane had a sacrifice fly and starting pitcher Matthew Defay went five innings and took the loss.
For Beal City Keegan Haynes went the first four innings to get credit for the win and it was a timely double play in the first inning that kept St. Mary from scoring a run or more.
Haynes threw 10 consecutive balls to load the bases with one out. Beal City coach Steve Pickens went to the mound to calm his junior right-hander down and instill some confidence.
“The nerves got the better of me,” Haynes said. “This is the biggest game I’ve pitched.”
After going 2-0 on the fifth batter, Alex Pudvan, Haynes threw a strike then got Pudvan to bounce into a double play. That one pitch changed everything.
“That pretty much defined the game for us,” St. Mary coach Matt Nowicki said. “That first could have been promising for us.”
Beal City had all the momentum at that point and put it to good use. Haynes and catcher Cameron Lynch had run-scoring singles in the first Kollion Sharrar’s two-run triple keyed the four-run second.
“We scored a number of runs today with two outs,” Pickens said. “We’re getting some timely hitting. We didn’t strike out much today.”
Beal City’s first six runs scored with two outs and the Aggies struck out four times.
St. Mary (26-6) scored all of its runs in the fifth stringing together five consecutive singles. Beal City’s ace, senior Brett Upton, came in with two on and got the next three batters, two on strikes, to end the threat. Upton, 11-2 on the season, went 1 2/3 innings, threw 23 pitches and will likely be the starting pitcher in the final.
“That double play was a big momentum swing,” Upton said. “That was huge for us. The plan for me today was to come in for an inning or so and get used to the mound. I’m ready.”
Aaron Schafer relieved Upton in the sixth and got the final four outs.
Haynes got credit for the win and he also went 3-3 with two RBI.
Beal City had 10 hits and was issued three walks.
For St. Mary Drew Long went all six innings and pitched well after the first two. Joseph Moeggenberg had two hits and an RBI.