Grand Valley stuns defending state champs
By Steve ruman
Grand Valley coach Mathew Brumit knew that in order to beat Champion, his club was going to have to play small ball to perfection.
“[Champion starting pitcher] Drake Batcho isn’t the type to give up a string of hits, so you’re not going to have a huge inning against him,” Brumit said. “We talked all week about putting the ball in play, putting pressure on the defense, moving base runners, making things happen.”
Brumit’s words of wisdom were played out to perfection, and as a result the Mustangs will be playing today for a Division III district title.
Grand Valley (14-7) shocked Champion 2-1 in a district semifinal Wednesday at Wilder Field in Niles. The Mustangs will play Crestwood today for the right to advance to regional play. Crestwood beat LaBrae 10-0 on Wednesday night.
Champion, which entered the game as the defending state champions and the current No. 2 ranked team in the state, ends its season at 14-2.
Grand Valley was able to put runners in scoring position in six innings against Champion’s ace. The Mustangs collected five hits, but ironically, they scored their two runs without the benefit of a base hit.
Grand Valley scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning courtesy of an error, a sacrifice bunt, a ground out and a passed ball. Mustangs leadoff hitter Nick Reichek scored the run with two outs in the inning.
Champion would even the game at 1-1 in the second inning when Batcho was hit by a pitch, then later came around to score on a Noah Gradishar sacrifice fly.
The Mustangs scored what proved to be the game-winning run in the sixth. Batcho issued three consecutive one-out walks, followed by a Michael McGovern flyout which plated Gary Gearhart.
Champion didn’t go away quietly. After Grand Valley starter Logan Newell induced a pair of groundouts to start the bottom of the seventh, the next three Golden Flashes reached base on a bloop single and a pair of walks. However, a bases-loaded fly ball to right field ended the contest.
“I told Logan before the inning started, just go out there, get the first out and relax,” Brumit said. “Taking that first out away is huge, it takes away a lot of what an offense can do in terms of bunting, sacrificing and whatnot. After the bloop base hit, he was kind of guiding his pitches for a bit, but he came back and got the huge out when he needed it.”
“Hats off to Logan and the rest of this team. They shut down a great opponent.”
Newell surrendered just four hits while striking out eight.
Batcho also worked a complete game. He scattered the five hits while recording 12 strikeouts.
“Our team never quit, they battled until the very last pitch, but Grand Valley played a great game and you have to give them all the credit,” said Champion coach Rick Yauger. “[Newell] kept us off-balance all night.”
Despite a two-loss season, Yauger said his team struggled to find its groove all throughout the campaign.
“We had to replace seven players from last year’s squad,” Yauger said. “We had a lot of guys who hadn’t played varsity before, and who needed their at-bats. They needed the reps. But the weather just never allowed us to play on a consistent basis. We probably had half the at-bats that we had a year ago.
“We came in as the top seed, but tonight wasn’t our night. That’s why they play the game.”
Grand Valley and Crestwood will play today at 5 p.m.