Gallery: Saline Falls One Comeback Short in State Championship Thriller

 06/18/2016 - 22:13

The comeback kids fell one comeback short.

Warren DeLaSalle defeated Saline 7-6 in the MHSAA Division 1 state championship game Saturday at Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium. The Hornets battled back from a 4-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead. The Pilots went up 7-6 in the bottom of the sixth. The Hornets loaded the bases with one out in the seventh but Saline’s patented post-season comeback was foiled when the Pilots turned Jake Finkbeiner’s sharply hit groundball into a game-ending double play.

“Baseball can be a cruel game sometimes,” said Saline coach Scott Theisen, who went on to discuss the pride he had in his team. “This was a talented team that probably grew emotionally more than any other team we've had in recent year, in terms of their ability to fight through things, and play with energy, play with passion and fight through adversity. I was really proud of that.”

Saline came from behind in five of its six post-season victories. Saturday, they had to do it again.

Sophomore Easton Sikorski started for Warren DeLaSalle and Kellan Huang started for Saline. Sikorski had little trouble with the Hornets in the top of the first and second, getting six outs in six at bats.

Huang, a hero in the quarterfinal, allowed a walk in the bottom of the second inning but was tagged for four runs in the second inning. Huang threw strikes and the Pilots groundballs had eyes. Huang allowed six hits and four runs during the second inning become Theisen summoned Josh Nelson from the bullpen.

“That one inning they found the hole several times. We hit the ball hard right at them. It's a tough game some times,” Theisen said.

Nelson, whose relief appearances bailed out the Hornets in the district, regionals, quarterfinal and semifinal, was called in with two on and no outs. Nelson got Mac Graybill to fly out before allowing a single. With the bases loaded he struck out Pilot slugger Rob Gurawski. Then Ryan Foley prevented what might have been a bases-clearing gap shot sprinting towards centerfield and leaping to catch a line drive.

The Hornets bats showed life in the third. Once again, the bottom half of the lineup ignited the offense. Senior Richard Hovde singled to rightfield. He moved to third when Ryan Foley singled to rightfield. Zach Schwartzenberger’s fly ball allowed Hovde to tag and score. The Hornets were down 4-1.

Nelson held the Pilots in check in the third. He allowed the lead-off man to reach on a walk and got the next hitter on a fielder’s choice. Jake Badalamenti hit a groundball back to the Nelson on the mound. He relayed to Thomas Miller at second, who relayed to Sean O’Keefe at first for the doubleplay.

In the fourth, the Hornets added two more runs. With two out, Finkbeiner walked. Then Cole Daniels won a long at bat with a full-count double to the wall in right, making it 4-2. Saline added second run when Hovde’s hard grounder was bobbled by the second basemen. His hurried throw got past the first-baseman and Cole scored.

Nelson put the Pilots down in order in the fourth.

Saline’s momentum was stalled in the fifth when Sidorski put the Hornets down, 1-2-3. DeLaSalle added to their lead in the fifth. Nelson walked Bryce Bush and gave up a one-out single to Held. Nelson walked Mike Karam to load the bases. Saline converted Ben Hyndman’s groundball into a fielder’s choice, but the Pilots scored their fifth run.

Nelson struck out Badalamenti for the final out of the inning.

Down by two, the Hornets pushed back. Zachary Owings led off with a line-drive double to right.

Sean O’Keefe followed with his third homerun of the post-season, a rocket that everyone in the park knew was gone from the instant it left O’Keefe’s bat. The game was tied at five.

“It was a no-doubter. It was gone as soon as it was hit. It was one a big stage. It was a big emotional lift for us,” Theisen said.

It was the first home run in the three years the MHSAA tournament has been back at McLane Stadium.

Saline wasn’t done.

Finkbeiner walked. Stevie Kise came in as a pinch runner. He stole second and went to third on Cole Daniels’ sacrifice bunt.

With two out, Josh Nelson singled between short and third to give Saline a 6-5 lead – its first lead of the game.

It was short lived. Nelson struck lead-off man Mike Kostuch. Darren Rydzewski bunted the pinch runner to second. Nelson then struck Graybill with a pitch.

Theisen called for Sean O’Keefe to relieve Nelson.

The runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. The Bush singled up the middle to score both runners.

“O'Keefe was throwing well. He just came in a tough situation. He got a ground ball but our infield was in a little bit and it got through. If our infield is back a little bit we probably make that play,” Theisen said.

O’Keefe got the next two batters but the Pilots led 7-6.

In the top of the seventh rallied on reliever Nino Puckett. Zach Schwartzenberger walked. Miller bunted him to second. Schwartzenberger took third on a wild pitch. Saline was a single away from tying the game. Owings walked to put runners on the corners.

With O’Keefe up, Theisen called for Owings to steal second. Theisen’s thinking was two-fold. For one, it eliminated the likelihood O’Keefe would hit into a doubleplay. Secondly, if the Pilots tried to throw out Owings, Schwartzenberger could score from third base.

“They didn’t take the bait,” Theisen said.

Owings stole second without challenge. With runners on second and third, the Pilots intentionally walked O’Keefe.

That brought up Finkbeiner, Saline’s leader in hits, RBI and homeruns, with the bases loaded.

Finkbeiner hit the ball hard, but right at the secondbasemen. He started a 4-6-3 doubleplay that nipped Finkbeiner by a step and the game was over.

Theisen said he was proud of his team.

The Hornets finished the season with a 35-7 record. They won the SEC Red and captured district and regional championships on the way to the championship game.

The Saline Post 3 Stars

  1. Josh Nelson - Took the loss, but he kept the Hornets in the game. His coaches at Wayne State University have to thrilled with what they saw out of Nelson in the state tournament.
  2. Sean O'Keefe - Big homerun tied the game and wowed the crowd at McLane Stadium. 
  3. Zachary Owings -- The Saline senior had a big hit and played great defense in the infield.
 2016 MHSAA BASEBALL FINALS
                           Saline vs Warren DeLaSalle
              Jun 18, 2016 at East Lansing, Mich. (McLane Stadium)

Saline 6 (35-7)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
------------------------------------------------------
ZachSchwartzenberger cf..  2  0  0  1   1  0  1  0   0
Thomas Miller ss.........  3  0  0  0   0  1  3  4   1
Zachary Owings 2b........  3  1  1  0   1  0  2  0   0
Sean O'Keefe 1b/p........  3  1  1  2   1  0  5  0   0
 Paul Kiyabu pr..........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Jake Finkbeiner 3b.......  2  1  0  0   2  0  1  2   2
 Stevie Kise pr..........  0  1  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Cole Daniels dh..........  2  1  1  1   0  0  0  0   0
Richard Hovde rf.........  3  1  1  0   0  0  0  0   0
Kellan Huang p...........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  1   0
 Josh Nelson p...........  3  0  1  1   0  0  1  1   1
 Andrew Diuble pr........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
 Ted Eppinga 1b..........  0  0  0  0   0  0  1  0   0
Ryan Foley lf............  3  0  1  0   0  1  2  0   1
Cal Livesay c............  0  0  0  0   0  0  2  1   0
Totals................... 24  6  6  5   5  2 18  9   5

Warren DeLaSalle 7 (28-13)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
------------------------------------------------------
Darren Rydzewski rf......  3  0  1  2   0  0  0  0   0
Mac Graybill c...........  3  1  0  0   0  0  2  0   0
Bryce Bush 1b............  2  1  2  2   1  0 11  0   0
Rob Zurawski 3b..........  4  0  0  0   0  1  1  1   1
Matt Held 2b.............  4  1  2  0   0  0  1  2   4
Mike Karam ss............  1  1  1  0   2  0  1  5   0
Ben Hyndman lf...........  3  1  1  2   0  0  3  0   0
Jake Badalamenti cf......  3  1  1  0   0  1  2  0   2
Mike Kostuch dh..........  2  0  1  1   0  1  0  0   0
 Brett Sandora pr........  0  1  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Easton Sikorski p........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  3   0
 Nino Puckett p..........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Totals................... 25  7  9  7   3  3 21 11   7

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Saline.............. 001 203 0 -  6  6  1
Warren DeLaSalle.... 040 012 X -  7  9  1
-----------------------------------------

E - R. Foley; M. Karam. DP - SALINE 1; DELASALLE 1. LOB - SALINE 5;
DELASALLE 7. 2B - Z. Owings; C. Daniels. HR - S. O'Keefe. HBP - M. Graybill;
B. Bush; M. Kostuch. SH - T. Miller; C. Daniels; D. Rydzewski. SF -
Schwartzenbe. SB - Z. Owings; S. Kise; A. Diuble; R. Foley.

Saline                 IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP
--------------------------------------------------
Kellan Huang........  1.0  6  4  4  0  0  9 10  24
Josh Nelson.........  4.1  2  3  3  3  3 13 19  62
Sean O'Keefe........  0.2  1  0  0  0  0  3  3   7

Warren DeLaSalle       IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP
--------------------------------------------------
Easton Sikorski.....  6.0  6  6  5  2  2 23 27  96
Nino Puckett........  1.0  0  0  0  3  0  1  5  18

Win - E. Sikorski.  Loss - J. Nelson.  Save - N. Puckett .
WP - S. O'Keefe; E. Sikorski; N. Puckett. HBP - by K. Huang (B. Bush); by J.
Nelson (M. Kostuch); by J. Nelson (M. Graybill). Inherited runners/scored: J.
Nelson 2/0; S. O'Keefe 2/2. Pitches/strikes: K. Huang 24/16; J. Nelson 62/38; S.
O'Keefe 7/5; E. Sikorski 96/57; N. Puckett 18/9.
Umpires - HP: Andy Reiman  1B: Mike Snyder  2B: Brandon Stacey  3B: Tom Buist
Start: 11:30 AM   Time: 1:54   Attendance: 702
K. Huang faced 6 batters in the 2nd.
Game: D1FINAL
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore founded The Saline Post on Aug. 15, 2012. Follow him on Twitter at @tranlongmoore. Follow The Saline Post @thesalinepost. Follow The Saline Post on Facebook by clicking here.