Braves stun No. 1 Glads
CHARLEVIOX — Since January and the start of 2018 workouts, Gladstone baseball players had revenge against rival Traverse City St. Francis tops on their team goals list.
That goal became a reality on Saturday with GHS beating the top-ranked Gladiators 8-4 in 10 innings to earn the Division 3 regional championship at Charlevoix High School.
The Braves avenged last year’s 9-0 regional title loss with the extra-inning triumph.
The regional final was jammed-pack with three tense extra frames, with both teams scoring a run in the ninth inning to knot the score at 4-4.
The title game had twists and turns highlighted by a four-run 10th-inning to win GHS’s fourth regional crown in the past six years.
Senior Owen Hanson’s two-run double gave GHS the lead for good at 6-4 in the 10th and the Braves added two insurance runs on a Jared Crow RBI single and a Ben Kelly squeeze bunt RBI.
“This was our mission. This was our goal (to beat TCSF) when we started in the gym in January,” said Braves’ coach Don Lauscher. “We have talked every day about it and what it would take to get here and to work hard toward our goal.”
The championship game was tied 3-3 after seven innings with both starting aces using their pitch limits. GHS’ Clay Cole and TCSF’s Casey Peterson were relieved in the seventh inning.
Braves’ reliever Carson Shea pitched the final four innings for the mound win and he was instrumental in the team win.
“Early on we got down 2-0 and we knew if we could stay with their ace (Casey Peterson), and make him throw a lot of pitches and be patient. Carson (Shea) was outstanding. He is such a crafty pitcher and he doesn’t overpower you and keeps you off balance with his curve ball. He was a big man for us today.” said Lauscher.
The 10th inning game-winning blow was off the bat of Hanson. The key hit was a sweet one, according to Lauscher and Hanson.
The veteran field boss was playing a hunch, not bunting and playing the patented Braves’ small ball that is a key part of the team’s success. This time, Lauscher was telling Hanson to look for a certain pitch and to drive it.
“I had a good feeling (with Owen). If you get a ball middle in, you launch it. He got a ball middle in and he launched it. He did exactly what I asked him to do,” said Lauscher.
Hanson talked about his big hit and the persistence of his Gladstone teammates.
“Coach said you know you are going to see a pitch to do what you do best, and to rip one. I got a fastball down the middle of the plate and this feels amazing,” said Hanson.
“We had back-to-back competitions with them (TCSF). They have a great team, but we knew what we had to do to get back here. Over the years us seniors and juniors, we know how to win and have proved it. We will enjoy this tonight and then move on for the next game.”
Championship Saturday started for the Braves with a 6-3 semifinal win over Boyne City. GHS lefty starter Jared Crow threw a seven-inning complete game for the victory.
Crow allowed six hits, two walks, two earned runs with four strikeouts. Cole had two hits and two runs scored in the win.
Shea contributed to the semifinal offense with two RBIs and Cody Frappier had an RBI single in the four-run third inning to break open the Boyne City contest.
Traverse City (31-2) reached the final with a 14-0 semifinal win over Calumet.
Next up for Gladstone (31-4) is a MHSAA quarter-final match up on Tuesday against Standish-Sterling in Petoskey.
Lauscher likes his team’s chances going forward in the tournament and he relies on the full team roster for success.
“We knew we had the players to play solid team baseball to win,” he said. “This was a great team win (St. Francis) with all 13 players contributing (Saturday). That is the sign of a championship team.”