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Published: Wednesday, 6/13/2007

Sloppy Blissfield falls to surprising Hillsdale

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Blissfield's Jacob Graf can't control the throw in the fourth inning as Hillsdale's Haiden Berube steals second base. Blissfield's Jacob Graf can't control the throw in the fourth inning as Hillsdale's Haiden Berube steals second base.
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SALINE, Mich. - Veteran Blissfield baseball coach Larry Tuttle said he had been telling his Royals all season long that the only team that could beat them come tournament time was themselves.

The 40th-year skipper was at least partially correct last night because the Hillsdale Hornets beat the 32-9 Royals at their own game in taking a 6-1 victory in a Division 3 state quarterfinal at Saline High School.

The Hornets (21-20), who had never previously advanced this far in tournament play, paid little attention to Blissfield's impressive tourney history, which included 14 quarterfinals and seven state titles.

"We didn't swing the bats, we didn't play defense, and we got outpitched," said Tuttle, Michigan's all-time winningest coach (972-286-4). "When those three things happen, you're not going to win. They beat us at our own game. They took the bunt away from us, and we weren't swinging the bats."

Hillsdale jumped on the Royals with an unearned run in the first inning and two more runs in the second. That would be all sophomore pitcher Scott Lantis would need to back his 110-pitch, five-hit, no-walk effort.

Mike Blanchard, who was 3-for-3 for the Hornets, singled in the bottom of the first, advanced on a Lantis sacrifice, and later scored from third on a two-out fielding error by Blissfield third baseman Zach Pawson.

"We were the team that was scared out here," Tuttle said. "We were intimidated by them, and we did not play the game the way we've been playing all year. We came out tight, and it started in the first inning when we gave them the unearned run. It's disappointing because I didn't think we'd respond like this."

Singles by Mitchell Gabriele and Mike Maystead, plus a double by Blanchard off Royals starter Corey Cannon in the second upped the Hillsdale lead to 3-0 before Blissfield plated its only run in the third.

Blissfield catcher Johnny Estes and shortstop Tyler Raburn each singled with one out, and Estes subsequently scored on Tyler Wehner's RBI groundout.

"In a game like this, the difference between winning and losing is execution," said Hillsdale coach Chris Adams, whose team had five sacrifice bunts. "They did not get their leadoff guys on base. We got our leadoff guy on base five of the six innings that we hit, and those turned into runs. That was huge."

Hillsdale used four singles, a walk, and a hit batsmen to add three insurance runs off Royals reliever Aaron Hudson in the sixth. Pat Vear drove in two on a bases-loaded single to center, and Craig Hinkle plated the Hornets' sixth run with a single.

Blissfield's final threat against Lantis, which came when Pawson singled and second baseman Jake Graf doubled in the seventh, was extinguished when Hinkle ended the game on a diving catch on the warning track in the left-field corner.

"Getting to this point [quarterfinals for Blissfield], in my book, is expected," Tuttle said. "It's what you do after this is what really clarifies where our program is this year. We've got a lot of juniors this year, and we'll go back and start working with ballgames for the summer."


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