The comeback kids

Braves rally to advance to state semifinals

Justin St. Ours | Daily Press The Gladstone baseball team rushes the field and celebrates after its win against Beaverton in the Division 3 Super Regional Saturday in Clare.

CLARE — The Gladstone baseball team is headed to the state semifinals. The Braves rallied from a four-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to top the Beaverton Beavers 7-6 in nine innings to capture a Division 3 regional title here Saturday.

“We fell behind and things weren’t looking very good,” Braves’ coach Kelly Shea said. “We found a way to come back and win that game, which was pretty remarkable. I didn’t give up, but I knew it was going to be tough to come back and win the game because we weren’t swinging the bats real well.”

Entering the bottom of the seventh, the Braves trailed 6-2. Zach Hanson and Dan Martin led off with a single and a double to put runners on second and third.

Beaverton’s Lucas Schweinsberg, who had been pitching since the sixth, was switched out for Drew Grove.

Cody Frappier was up next and walked to load the bases. A fielder’s choice on a ground shot by Christian Creten had Hanson tagged out before he could make it home while Martin and Frappier advanced. Another fielder’s choice on a grounder from Ian Schwalbach forced Creten out at second, but scored Martin to reduce the deficit to 6-3.

Down to their final out, the Braves’ chances were still looking slim. With a runner on first and third, Cole Hansen reached on an error on a ground ball to score Frappier. Cooper Cavadeas was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. Carson Shea followed with a hard ground ball to the second baseman, who was unable to get it under control, scoring Schwalbach and Cavadeas to tie the game at six. A flyout ended the frame, forcing extra innings.

“Their pitcher started getting wild and walked a few guys, and then they made an error,” coach Shea said. “All of a sudden our bench came to life, and the momentum changed. I could tell that their pitcher was getting a little wild so I told them, ‘let’s just wait until we get a strike on us because we need base runners.’ It sure seemed to help. We waited until we had that strike on us, and we were a little more patient. Then we started hitting the ball nice. I think patience was the biggest thing that helped us at the plate.”

After an unproductive top of the eighth for the Beavers (21-6), Gladstone stranded the bases loaded in the bottom half.

Once more, the Braves (29-7) held the Beavers scoreless in the ninth, setting up another chance for a walk-off win.

Cavadeas was hit by a pitch to lead off. Jared Crow and Drake Forrest both singled to load the bases, and Hanson followed with a line drive single to push Cavadeas across and win the game.

“This is something that we shoot for every year,” coach Shea said.

“We’re happy, but on the bus ride home we weren’t satisfied. We want to win this whole thing. How can we get better and how do we win this whole thing; that was the talk on the way home. We have seven seniors, so we have a lot of leadership. Four of the juniors were sophomores with us at Michigan State last year, so we have a lot of experience and know what it takes to get to Michigan State. I’m surprised by our win, but it’s not a fluke by any means. We have the talent.”

Crow pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, five walks and two runs (one earned) while striking out six. Hanson spent 1 1/3 innings on the mound and allowed one hit, six walks and four runs (three earned). Shea went 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. Hanson went 4 of 6 with an RBI and a run scored. Frappier and Creten both finished with a hit and an RBI, and Schwalbach collected another RBI. Riley Baldovski, Crow and Forrest all notched one hit.

Jarret Inscho pitched four innings for the Beavers, allowing four hits, three walks and two runs (none earned) while striking out two. Schweinsberg went two innings and allowed two hits, one walk and one run (none earned) while fanning two. Trent Reed pitched one inning, allowing three hits, one walk and one run while punching out one. Grove pitched the ninth, surrendering two hits, one walk and three runs (one earned). Reed collected two hits and two RBIs, and Schweinsberg finished with two RBIs. Inscho collected one RBI. Jack Owens notched two hits, while Carson Oldani and Logan Gerow finished with one hit.

Beaverton coach Scott Wicke was proud his team made it as far as it did.

“Obviously, we’re all disappointed,” he said. “We were that close, and to not pull it out was disheartening. We accomplished a lot of things this year like getting back to a quarterfinal after not having one for a while. It means a lot to us and our baseball program. If we had a couple bounces go a different way it could’ve been a different story. I’m just proud of our guys. They had a really good season, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Gladstone, which survived Boyne City 2-1 in the semifinals earlier in the day, travels to Michigan State University to face Grosse Pointe Woods Friday in the state semifinals.

“I’m not big on (researching other teams) too much,” coach Shea said. “I just focus on our game and our team.”