SALINE, Mich. — Stellar pitching from the lone holdovers of Bedford’s last state tournament team were needed Saturday to secure a return trip.
In exhausting both his pitch count and a mouthy opposing lineup, Jackson Lamb lifted the Kicking Mules to a 3-1 regional semifinal win over Taylor Kennedy.
Hours later, in a 1-0 triumph over Belleville, Kyle Kuhr followed a similar plot line to prevail in spite of shaky support.
Four runs were all Bedford needed to win its third regional crown since 2009. Well, four runs, reliable fielding, and the steady arms of two senior right handers. Lamb and Kuhr, varsity sophomores in 2011 on the Division 1 runner-up squad, will be bringing along some newcomers this time. The Mules (30-7) will take on Howell in a quarterfinal Tuesday at Michigan State. First pitch is scheduled for noon.
Though their results were alike, Lamb and Kuhr took opposite paths to get through seven innings. Lamb encountered control issues for the second game in a row, walking six batters and wracking up a whopping 146 pitches — exactly twice as many as Kuhr’s 73. Nevertheless, he didn’t allow a run until the bottom of the seventh, at which time Bedford was in front 3-0. An antagonistic Kennedy dugout made a point early and often to try to rattle Michigan’s Gatorade player of the year, mocking Lamb’s failure to locate his fastball and breaking into vociferous chatter typically seen in softball.
“It was kind of bush league, but it really doesn’t bother me at all,” said Lamb, who between games was chosen by the Texas Rangers in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball draft. “I’ve handled it through my entire career and don’t let it affect me.”
Lamb indicated early he would not be shaken. He glared into the home dugout after a biting curve handcuffed No. 4 hitter Brett Hall to end the first. A routine pop up to end the fourth pulled Lamb within a couple steps of Taylor’s dugout, and for an encore he pretended to flip the ball to an Eagles player on the bench.
“They did everything they could to try to get to him,” Bedford coach Craig Trychel said. “He’s not going to let anybody get to him. He’s just going to keep doing his thing. Give him a lot of credit.”
A two-run single by Joshua Strickland put Bedford ahead 3-0 in the top of the seventh, with Dennis Guss and Lamb crossing to provide the only real comfort of the afternoon. Lamb, who won the district final Monday in spite of 10 walks, allowed a run in the bottom of the inning when he walked two and threw three wild pitches. He struck out six in the game.
Kuhr was economical in his dispatching of a Belleville team that never advanced past second base. After throwing 30 pitches over the first two innings, Kuhr faced the minimum in the third, fourth, and fifth. He struck out two, and like Lamb, allowed four singles.
“It was definitely nerve wracking at the end,” Kuhr said of clinging to a narrow lead. “But I knew we could get through it.”
Five scoreless frames came and went after Jonathan Shepherd scored from first base in the second on Lucas Mayo’s single to right.
Much like the first tilt, key hits rarely came. Bradley Boss struck out with a runner on third to end the first. Guss lined out to short to start an inning-ending double play in the fourth. After Guss doubled with two down in the seventh, Belleville ceded first base to Lamb. Boss then flew out.
“Sometimes you win with your bat, sometimes you win with your glove,” Trychel said.
Trychel said he is unsure who will pitch Tuesday. Lamb, who registered 281 pitches over two games last week, seems to be a long shot to start with just two days rest.
“I’ll go ice up tonight and see how it feels,” he said.
Lamb drafted but will play at UM
Bedford’s Jackson Lamb resisted overtures from the major leagues and will honor his commitment to play baseball at the University of Michigan.
Lamb said he turned down an offer Friday to be chosen in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft. Lamb, who would not reveal which organization reached out to him, said the financial offer was insufficient.
“My family and I had a number in mind,” said Lamb, the Gatorade player of the year in Michigan. “The round met, but the money just wasn’t there. I just wasn’t going to budge.”
Lamb instead was chosen Saturday in the 20th round — 610th overall — by the Texas Rangers. He will not sign with the club and instead will report to Michigan in September.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.