Bedford’s Jakob Letson, left, can’t get the tag down as Howell’s Patrick O’Brien steals third base. The Mules’ season came to an end Tuesday with a loss in the Division 1 state quarterfinals.
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The gas tank ran dry on the Bedford baseball team’s 2013 postseason trip on Tuesday.
The Mules also ran into a sudden stop sign in the form of Howell senior pitcher Tyler Bradner. Bedford lost 11-1 to the Highlanders in the Division 1 state quarterfinals at Michigan State University.
The Mules fell behind 7-1 after two innings and did not get a hit. The game ended after five innings because of the mercy rule.
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Bradner not only pitched a no-hitter, he also went 3 for 3 at the plate and drove in five runs.
“It is frustrating because you get this far, you want to make the next step,” Bedford coach Craig Trychel said. “It was tough to see it slip away. It’s painful.
“You hate to see it end, but I tip my hat to them. They hit the ball. They’re a good team.”
Bedford (30-8) ended its season ranked eighth in the state poll. It also marked the end to the stellar prep career of Jackson Lamb, who led the Mules to the state title game as a sophomore in 2011.
Lamb, who was chosen in the 20th round of the MLB draft on Saturday, went 0 for 2. The 6-foot-6 pitcher/outfielder instead will honor his commitment to the University of Michigan.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. It still feels like I have next year,” Lamb said. “I’ve had next year for the last four years and for it to come to an end is just kind of weird. The boys and I have left a legacy. This is something I’ll miss a lot.”
Howell (32-6), which was ranked No. 5 in the poll, advanced to the state semifinals for the second consecutive season.
The Mules scratched across their only run in the second inning. Brad Boss walked to lead off, and Josh Strickland was then hit by a pitch. Boss later scored on a fielder’s choice as Lucas Mayo beat out a potential inning-ending double play.
The Mules made it 7-1 despite not getting a hit.
Bedford senior pitcher Kyle Kuhr, who threw 73 pitches to lead the Mules to a regional championship on Saturday, allowed seven runs on five hits over two innings.
“He was OK,” Trychel said. “His arm felt good. That was as hard as he has thrown all year. He just couldn’t locate his breaking ball and that hurt him.”
Howell jumped on Kuhr, who left the game after the second inning after throwing 43 pitches. He hit two batters and walked two, one intentionally.
Howell’s Cody Wiggins doubled on the second pitch of the game. He then scored on Bradner’s RBI single to for an early 1-0 lead.
The Highlanders broke it open with six runs on three hits in the second inning. The first two batters were hit, and the bases were loaded with a walk. Nathan Holmes and Bradner each drove in two runs with RBI singles. Ben Balgaard plated two more with a double to give the Highlanders a 7-0 lead.
Then after the second, Bradner settled in nicely. He stuck out only two but he sent down the side in order in the final three innings.
Bradner, who will play at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich., said it was the first no-hitter he has thrown.
“I came out throwing strikes and let my fielders do everything behind me,” he said. “I was cruising.”
Howell coach Jason Ladd said Bradner was hitting 87 mph and also featured a curveball, slider, and changeup.
“He’s been pitching really well,” Ladd said. “He is a senior, and he said he wanted the ball. It helps when you get ahead early. That relieves pressure. He settled in.”
Both coaches agreed that keeping Lamb off base was critical. Lamb flew out and struck out.
“That was big,” Ladd said. “He’s a tough out and a very good player.”
Bradner has played on summer travel teams with Lamb.
“I knew he would be the toughest out to get,” Bradner said. “When I got the first pop up I was relieved. And when I struck him out the second time, it set the tone. I was just pumped.”
Lamb, who threw 146 pitches in a regional semifinal win Saturday, threw 281 pitches during his last two games and did not pitch on Tuesday.
Trychel said all of his players feed off Lamb, who entered the regional tournament hitting .511 with 34 RBIs.
“When he goes, everyone goes,” Trychel said. “He is just one of those kids that comes once in a lifetime. But he’s so humble. He you wouldn’t know he was a superstar.”
Lamb was named the 2013 Gatorade player of the year in Michigan and wrapped up a highly decorated four-year varsity career in baseball and basketball.
“For me to go 0 for 2 today is definitely hard,” Lamb said. “That was my last at-bat. I’m supposed to be the man that gets on base every time.”
Lamb was chosen with the 610th pick overall by Texas. He had turned down an offer Friday to be chosen in the third round by another organization.
Instead he will be a freshman next year at Michigan.
“It won’t be the same,” Lamb said. “There is a part of you that wants to play for your hometown and be that guy. I have been that leader for Bedford for a while and it will be hard to establish myself at Michigan as a freshman. I love where I’m at right now with the community and everything. It’s really hard to let it go.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.