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Published: Wednesday, 6/15/2005

Rain delay, wild pitch cost Blissfield

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

HOWELL, Mich. - Blissfield was only nine outs away from ending the longest winning streak in high school baseball history, but a rain delay and a wild pitch dashed the Royals' hopes and extended Homer High's phenomenal run.

Blissfield led Homer 3-1 after 4 1/2 innings in a Division 3 state quarterfinal when a rain deluge led to a 51-minute delay. When play resumed the Trojans seized momentum with a four-run inning to win its 74th consecutive contest with a 5-3 comeback victory over the Royals.

"We had them beat," said Blissfield coach Larry Tuttle. "We had the game in hand and we let it get away. They got a chance to regroup during the rain delay."

Both teams botched plays that led to most of the runs while playing before a crowd of about 1,000. Homer (36-0) committed four crucial errors in the third inning and the Royals took full advantage scoring three unearned runs to go up 3-1.

Blissfield starter Andrew Estes had given up just two hits and one run over the first five innings. He struck out the side in order in the fifth.

But in the sixth, Homer pulled within one run on a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Estes then struck out Cody Collmenter. But the curveball hit the plate and bounced all the way to the backstop and the Trojans scored the tying run.

"We had three outs and were out of the inning," Tuttle said. "Those things happen in high school baseball. If I had to do it again, I'd tell him to throw a fastball."

The next batter, Brock Winchell, smoked a shot to right-centerfield scoring two more runs.

"Little plays like that kill you," said senior Justin Wilson, who drove in two runs. "It's plays like that where you see the season slip right away from you.

"We were all fired up and then the rain hit. We had them down and hurting. But once that rain delay came, they were able to regroup."

The start of the game also was delayed 22 minutes by rain.

In the third, John Estes and Andrew Estes both reached safely on ground ball errors on the shortstop to lead off the inning. Wilson smacked a sharp single to right-center. Andrew Estes and Will Faulkner scored on the play.

Wilson then scored on a wild pickoff throw from the pitcher that got by the first baseman.

"At the time we had everything going for us. We were rolling," Wilson said.

Homer coach Scott Salow, whose team advances to the state semifinals after winning the title last year, said he did not have a good feeling in the early going.

"I took them down the foul line and told them to refocus during the rain delay," Salow said. "I told them we were down to nine outs and let's make every one of them precious."

After the Trojans struck for the four runs, Blissfield went down in order in the sixth and seventh innings.

The Royals (36-8), who also lost to Homer here in the state quarterfinals last year, managed just two hits. Trojan pitcher Dusty Compton struck out 12.

Andrew Estes struck out six and Wilson did not give up a hit in an inning of relief.

Both Wilson and his coach said they were not affected by Homer's winning streak.

"I was worried about Blissfield, I wasn't worried about what they had done," Tuttle said. "We have tradition on our side. I wouldn't trade our seven state championships for that winning streak for love nor money."

"I give a lot of credit to the Blissfield team and what Larry has been able to establish for high school baseball in Michigan," Salow said.



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