SALINE, Mich. – The hope of another deep tournament run by the Bedford baseball team ended almost as soon as the Kicking Mules got started in Saturday’s Division 1 district semifinals.
Host Saline (25-10) jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in a wild bottom of the first inning against Mules junior ace Jackson Lamb, and the Hornets never looked back in rolling to a 9-2 victory.
This matchup of Southeastern Conference Red Division rivals - who have combined for four straight Michigan D-1 state runner-up finishes - saw the hard-throwing, 6-foot-6 Lamb need 46 pitches (31 strikes) to get through the opening frame.
Lamb actually struck out four Saline batters in the first and, amazingly, had a chance for a fifth in that inning. Two Hornets who fanned reached first base safely, one on a wild pitch, the other on a passed ball by starting catcher Josh Strickland.
Those miscues, a Mules error on third baseman Joe Bemister, a walk, a single by Trent Theisen, and a two-run double by Michael Hendrickson added up to an early five-run deficit from which Bedford (23-13) never recovered.
“You can’t give ‘em six outs,” Bedford coach Craig Trychel said. “You’ve got to catch the baseball. It’s as simple as that, and we weren’t able to do it.
“It just kind of happened, and it snowballed. We could’ve gotten out of the inning and it didn’t happen. Baseball’s funny like that.”
A pair of walks and stolen bases combined with Austin Hauck’s sacrifice fly gave the Red Division champion Hornets a 6-0 edge after two innings, and Saline added two more in the fourth, when Lamb exited before recording an out.
After balking home Saline’s ninth run, which was charged to Lamb, Bedford reliever Justin McPherson blanked the Hornets from there. But it was too late.
“It’s really difficult because I know that we can play with that team,” Trychel said of the early tourney exit. “We can score runs and do some things. We just weren’t able to get it done today. After they got ahead, it was tough to come back.”
The Mules’ only runs off of Saline pitcher Justin Goike came in the top of the fifth, when Bemister walked, Brad Boss reached on one of the Hornets’ six errors, and Lamb delivered an RBI single to right-center. Boss followed Bemister home after Lamb’s drive was bobbled by center fielder Gage Hammond.
“That was a tough first inning,” said Lamb (7-3 record). “I calmed down after that. I really wasn’t struggling. It’s just that we made mistakes. I take the blame for it. I’ve got to make better pitches. I was getting too many across the plate and they were hitting them.”
Strickland, who was having trouble hanging onto Lamb’s pitches, left the game before the first inning concluded after being hit hard on his mask by a foul ball.
Goike’s complete-game victory included just three Mules hits, all singles. He struck out seven and walked two.
The Hornets had twice as many strikeouts (10) as hits (5) in their six turns at bat.
Saline was the D-1 state runner-up 2008 through 2010, losing in title games to Birmingham Brother Rice (8-0), Warren DeLaSalle (3-2), and fellow SEC Red Division member Ann Arbor Pioneer (4-1), respectively. Bedford fell 5-4 to Rockford in last year’s D-1 state final.
“Saline’s a good team,” Lamb said. “It’s nothing to be ashamed about. We had a good season. We did the same thing to them last year [9-0 Bedford win in district final], and they were a good team last year.
“The year before that they beat us 10-0. It seems like whoever comes out of this district goes pretty far. So, there’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.