MONROE — Bedford’s Division 1 district final against Saline on Monday was as much high-wire act as it was a baseball game.
In nearly every inning, Saline had Kicking Mules senior pitcher Jackson Lamb on the ropes, mostly because of his lack of control.
Despite 10 walks and two hit batsmen, each time Lamb found the resolve to escape unscathed for a one-hit shutout, and teammate Jakob Letson delivered a game-winning, walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift eighth-ranked Bedford (28-7) to a 1-0 victory over the 10th-ranked Hornets (26-8).
“I give Jackson a lot of credit because he didn’t have great command today," Bedford coach Craig Trychel said, "but he kept coming after them under adverse conditions, and he got it done.
“We got a clutch hit right at the end there. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities but, when we got one there, we had to make the most of it.”
Letson’s line single through the middle brought home Lucas Mayo from third base to send the Mules to Saturday’s regional semifinal against Taylor Kennedy at Saline.
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That game is scheduled to start 30 minutes after the 10 a.m. semifinal between Belleville and Dearborn Edsel Ford. Saturday’s regional final will be played 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Bedford/Kennedy contest.
As for Lamb (8-0), this shutout defied logic.
The hard-throwing 6-foot-6 right-hander allowed 15 baserunners, stranding 14 in his seven-inning effort. The Mules erased one other runner as part of a fifth-inning double play.
The Hornets’ only hit in the game was produced by Lamb’s less fortunate mound counterpart, junior lefty Michael Hendrickson. He sent a soft liner to right field for a third-inning single. That was one of the three innings Saline would end up leaving the bases loaded. In two other innings, two Hornet runners were stranded.
Through six innings, Hendrickson had yielded a second-inning double to Dennis Guss, a sixth-inning infield single to Lamb, and three walks.
But, in the Bedford seventh, he walked Mules catcher Josh Strickland to open the inning.
Mayo successfully bunted pinch-runner Conner Clements to second base and reached safely himself on a throwing error by Hornets catcher Trent Theisen. Bedford then loaded the bases with no outs when Jon Shepherd’s sacrifice bunt was fielded by Hendrickson, who also threw wildly to first.
Saline nearly escaped the jam. Hendrickson struck out Mules pinch-hitter Grant Waganfeald for the first out, and then caught Clements in a rundown when Letson was unable to execute a suicide-squeeze bunt.
“There was a little bit of a mental error there, but that’s baseball,” Trychel said of the failed squeeze. "Things happen, and you’ve got to overcome it.
“Jakob struggled early on [in season], but he’s been coming on. He got a clutch hit at the right time.”
Mayo and Shepherd advanced during the rundown, and Letson came through in his second chance to be the hero.
“I was honestly really nervous,” Letson said. “I didn’t do anything in the game before that. I was really worried about striking out and letting the team down.
“But I got the bat on the ball and made something happen. A big weight was lifted off of my shoulders when that ball went through. I was just looking for my teammates for a celebration.”
Lamb, who has signed to play at the University of Michigan and is likely to be selected in the the Major League Baseball draft, threw 135 pitches.
“I was willing to go as long as it took,” Lamb said. “This is what’s important to me now, so I want to give it my all. I’m not really focused on [the draft]. I’m focused on this team right here and my senior year.”
Bedford advanced to the district final by beating Ypsilanti 14-2 in five innings in a semifinal game Monday morning.
Josh Strickland allowed three hits in five innings to get the win, and Lamb (3-for-4, double, 4 RBIs), Strickland (3-for-3, double, RBI), and Letson (2-for-2, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs) led the Mules’ 12-hit attack.
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