Braves top Panthers, Bishop Foley on deck
PETOSKEY — Call him confident or crazy, but Carson Shea wanted to be Gladstone’s pitcher in Tuesday’s quarterfinal baseball game against Standish-Sterling.
Shea helped save the day for the Braves, who topped the Panthers 3-2 at Petoskey High School.
“I just wanted the ball in my hand,” said Shea, the junior right-hander. “I wanted to get the win for us. Luckily coach (Don Lauscher) trusted me. I wanted to get this team to Michigan State. I hope we win two more games.”
Gladstone didn’t play its best game, but the Braves dug deep to earn a trip to the state semifinals at Michigan State University. Gladstone will face defending state champion Madison Heights Bishop Foley Friday at 2:30 p.m.
“Today it was an ugly win,” Lauscher said. “We were not very sharp for sure. But we found a way to win, and at this point, and on this venture, we are OK with that.
“We didn’t play our best game by a long shot, but at the end of the day we are one of the final four out of 176 teams. We have to be proud, hold our heads high when we walk into Michigan State and we will represent Gladstone the best we can.”
Shea came up big for the Braves, who didn’t have the services of their top two pitchers Clay Cole and Jared Crow. They reached their pitch-count limits at the regional Saturday against Boyne City and Traverse City St. Francis and were not eligible Tuesday.
Enter Shea, who pitched a complete game, scattered five hits, allowed two unearned runs, struck out four, walked none and hit two batters.
“He was just absolutely outstanding,” Lauscher said. “He spotted his pitches well, had it all working and his composure on the mound is second to none. Even though he threw 58 pitches (against TCSF), he said he wanted the ball. He wanted to take control today and he did that.”
Gladstone prevailed on a day Standish-Sterling turned four double plays. The Braves prevailed on a day their small-ball game was a bit off. And they prevailed thanks to two Panther errors.
Standish-Sterling took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning, capitalizing on a Gladstone error and a two-run single on a flare to short right field.
Gladstone answered with a two-run fifth inning. Owen Hanson walked, Lucas Weinert singled and Crow reached on a bunt single. With one out, the Panthers had a potential double play, but the ball was thrown wild to first base allowing Hanson and Weinert to score.
The Braves scored the winning run in the top of the sixth. Cody Frappier was hit by a pitch, Dan Martin walked and Shea hit into a double play to move Frappier to third base. He scored when Hanson hit a ball off the end of the bat and the Standish-Sterling pitcher failed on his tag attempt on Hanson sprinting to first base.
Shea kept the Panthers off the scoreboard in the sixth and seventh innings as Gladstone advanced to the Final Four for the third time in Lauscher’s six years at the helm.
Gladstone finished with three unearned runs on five hits and one error.
Standish-Sterling had two unearned runs on five hits and two errors.
Lauscher and the Braves will turn their attention to defending state champion Bishop Foley. Lauscher started the scouting process on the trip home Tuesday from Petoskey.
“They play an extremely tough schedule,” he said about Bishop Foley. We will have our hands full for sure. We’ll have to play our best game like Traverse City St. Francis, but these guys can do it.“