BRIGHTON, Mich. - In the role of Goliath in yesterday's Michigan Division 3 state baseball quarterfinals, second-ranked Blissfield ducked David's stone and will continue its quest for a sixth state championship on Friday.
The Royals (38-4), who tied a school record for wins in a season, spotted the underdog Unionville Sebewaing Patriots (11-16) a 1-0 lead before using the jet-stream wind conditions at Brighton High School for two home runs en route to a 9-1 victory.
On the same field where Brighton alumni Drew Henson - the former Michigan quarterback and current Columbus Clippers third baseman - hammered most of his Michigan prep-record 70 career home runs, Blissfield center fielder Mike Melvin and first baseman Paul Phillips pounded two-run shots, in the first and third innings, for the Royals' first four runs off Patriots starter Dave Nordstrom.
“When you have the wind, you've got to play the conditions, and I thought we did,” Phillips said. “We got some balls up in the air. Melvin's would've went out of Yosemite, but I think mine got a little help from the wind.”
“That was the one that, I think, broke their backs,” said Royals coach Larry Tuttle of Phillips' shot. “I think we were playing a little tight, and we loosened up after the second home run.”
Melvin and Phillips added RBI doubles to ignite Blissfield's game-breaking five-run fourth inning.
The rest was left to senior pitcher Derek Feldkamp, who put Patriot Jason Hahn's double and Sean Squires' RBI single, both with two outs in the first, behind him. Feldkamp (10-3) blanked the Pats over the next four innings in his eight-strikeout, four-hit outing.
Senior reliever Rudy Mirelez shut out Sebewaing over the final two innings. Blissfield will play 25-8 Grandville Calvin Christian in a state semifinal at 2 p.m. Friday at Bailey Park in Battle Creek. Phillips (11-0) will start.
“It's nice for the hitters to have a chance like that [wind], and it also helps a little bit with your curveball,” Feldkamp said. “We kept stressing that we can't take [Sebewaing] easy. They had been hitting the ball. They hit seven home runs last weekend at the regional.
“We knew after the first inning that we had to get on top of it and play our game. Me and Mike were having a good time with that home run because he was one behind me for the career record. I told him, `You better tie that thing and help us out here.' We're 31-31 now.”
Melvin was glad to oblige.
“I got all of it,” he said of the blast, which landed some 50 or 60 feet beyond the 350-foot fence in left-center. “It was a fastball right down the middle and I knew it was gone.
“We're all square right now. I wouldn't want it any other way. I think we should be tied.”
“This was the type of team that's difficult to prepare for because you're supposed to win,” said Tuttle, who will lead Blissfield into its ninth state semifinal appearance. “On paper, you're the better ballclub.
“But we knew that we would score runs, and we didn't figure we give up a whole lot.”
In Division 2, Monroe Jefferson (30-6) defeated Farmington Hills Harrison 1-0 in eight innings to advance to a semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Bailey Park against Essexville Garber (31-10). The championship game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, in Division 1 softball, Adrian fell in quarterfinal play, 3-0 to Walled Lake Western.