Three baseball teams from Little League District 7 advanced from of pool play and into the championship bracket over the last few weeks as teams battled in the state tournament.
Richmond’s 10U All-Star team made its way to the semifinal, finishing the tournament 3-2 overall. The Blue Devils’ 7-6 victory over Beach in the first game gave them confidence as they progressed through pool play.
“That was a tough game and a good team. We put up enough runs to stave off a comeback,” head coach Brad Davidson said. “Beach had a rally in the sixth inning. I think it was 7-3 going into the sixth and we ended up winning that game 7-6.”
Richmond took care of business in game two against Mattawan winning 16-4, and with a 2-0 record, the boys relaxed in game three knowing they would advance to the championship bracket.
Their relaxed demeanor resulted in an 11-1 defeat against Commerce Township, but it allowed them to save a few pitchers for the quarterfinal game against Western, which proved to be key late in the game.
With a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth, Western had the tying run on third. Madden Pierce had pitched a “gem” of a game, according to Davidson, and Nathan Wegner’s closing turned out to be clutch.
“That was a stressful moment,” Davidson said. “When we got the final strikeout of the game to end it, they were pretty pumped about that.
“We knew coming intno that game Western was going to be tough. I’d never seen them play, just heard things about them, and just getting out of pool play is tough enough in that tournament, so we knew we wre going to have a tough time,” Davidson said. “We told the boys, ‘Play as hard as you can and we’ll be proud of you, just go out there and focus,’ and they did that.”
The Blue Devils would then play Grosse Pointe Farms in the semifinal where their tournament run would come to a close with a 6-3 loss against the eventual state champions.
“We knew that was a tough opponent, but to be able to get three runs and hold them to six, we were very proud of their grit and hard work,” Davidson said.
Members of the 2022 Richmond 10U All-Star team include: William Busen, Maks Mayer, Owen Rush, Beckett Cramton, Nathan Wegner, Adam Mieksztyn, Mason McCoy, Brayden Rix, Jake Jozwiak, Madden Pierce, Layton Turner, Luke Towner, Landon Lewis, and Patrick Davidson. They were coached by Brad Davidson, Steve Busen, Ryan Wegner, and Adam Rush.
In the 12U tournament, St. Clair represented District 7 with a 3-1 overall finish, including a shutout victory against Taylor North, the reigning Little League World Series champion.
“We beat Taylor earlier in the week and then we thought, ‘Alright, we’re going to get Petoskey because they’ll be the 2-seed,’” head coach Matt Distelrath said. “But then they beat Commerce, so then we had to switch our gears and get ready because the [pitcher from Commerce] was like 6-foot and threw 70 and we just never got anything going.”
After a 3-0 pool play performance in which the Saints allowed only two runs – the fewest of any team in the tournament – they were feeling confident about the quarterfinal game. But when Petoskey upset Commerce in pool play, it sent a tougher opponent St. Clair’s way.
“We felt we were one of the best teams because of our depth,” Distelrath said. “We were right there, but that’s the crummy thing about single elimination.”
The Saints fell 3-0 to Commerce to conclude their tournament run, but before that game, they tallied a few impressive victories: 13-0 over Milwood, 6-0 over Taylor North, and 8-2 against Tecumseh.
Nine different players pitched through pool play, proving the team’s depth, and Distelrath said a highlight was the overall defense played in the Taylor North game.
“We played great defense. We threw two guys out from the outfield and turned a double play,” he said. “Nathan Phillips was playing short and Jaxon Distelrath was at second and we turned a 6-4-3 double play in the sixth inning which was a big play. Jared Johnson threw a kid out at second from the outfield and Lukas Tanner threw a guy at home in the first. Those two plays were gigantic. It killed their momentum.”
Offensivley, the Saints were led by Phillips with seven hits throughout the tournament, Aidan Moran tallied five, and Jaxon Distelrath, Joe Shafer, and Levi Bean each posted four.
“A lot of the guys would play together all tournament season during the year, but this was a group of guys that were put together at the end of June…so that was realy cool to see them come together and really play as a team in those pool play games,” Matt Distelrath said.
Members of the 2022 St. Clair 12U All-Star team include: Levi Bean, Cameron Boullard, Jaxon Distelrath, Austin Fiscelli, Tucker Ginop, Jared Johnson, Griffin Kreger, Aidan Moran, Colin Lum, Reid Parlardg, Nathan Phillips, Joe Shafer, and Lucas Turrell. They were coached by Matt Distelrath, Matt Karas, and Steve Fiscelli.
St. Clair also sent a 13U All-Star team to the Intermediate Little League state tournament, knowing many of the players from last year’s World Series championship team, Taylor North, would be playing on the intermediate team this year – a team that happened to be in their pool.
“I think they were really hungry to play them,” head coach Steve Freeland said. “They’re a good team all the way around. They still had a lot of talent with the experience. Everybody talks Taylor North and our boys were ready. We brought in high shcool kids from St. Clair to throw batting pratice for us to get ready for a team of that level of play.”
They managed to stay within three runs of the reigning champions, falling 8-5 in the first round of pool play.
“Errors hurt us there in that game, otherwise it was a lot closer tht would’ve been at 8-5,” Freeland said, “but it was a good warmup to see what we would have to go up against [in the championship].”
After cruising through the next two pool play games 14-3 and 12-1, the Saints qualified for the championship bracket, in which they defeated Saginaw North 13-9 in the semifinal.
Then it was time for a rematch with Taylor North. St. Clair had picked up some momentum since the previous matchup, adding 34 hits to the team’s tournament total. And with two of their strongest pitchers fresh to go, the Saints were ready.
“Unfortunately, our bats didn’t come alive,” Freeland said. “I don’t know if [the pressure] led to some of the at-bats…I think they all wanted it more than anything, but sometimes if you want it too much, you try to do more than what you have to do as a player.”
St. Clair fell 6-1 in that championship game, led by Michael Frantz and Blake Green with two hits apiece. Jackson Kemp pitched through four innings with seven strikeouts, and Frantz finished the game adding two more.
Members of the St. Clair Intermediate All-Star team include: Noah Bean, Landon Blank, Gabe Cyplic, Michael Frantz, Hunter Freeland, Blake Green, Jackson Kemp, Ethan Kreger, Bryce Moran, Graham Parlardg, and Christian Romano. They were coached by Steve Freeland and Craig Black.