Baseball: Indian Lakes rallies to win regional title
North Central falls in regional semis
RUDYARD — They were just one out away from a second straight trip to the quarterfinals, but Rudyard could not hold off a seventh-inning comeback by Inland Lakes Saturday.
Inland Lakes scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, winning 7-6 in walk-off fashion over Rudyard in a Division 4 Regional 25 championship.
It was a heartbreaking finish for Rudyard (19-16), which led 6-2 through five innings in the all-Bulldog final.
“We got off to a good start today,” Rudyard coach Jimmy Smith said. “We were hitting the ball in both games, putting some runs up and doing the right things.
“But unfortunately, we didn’t make some plays we should have made when we needed them most,” Smith said. “That comes back to haunt you. Give credit to Inland Lakes. They had some timely hitting and ended up getting it done.”
The Rudyard Bulldogs defeated the North Central Jets 8-0, while the Inland Lakes Bulldogs stopped the Gogebic Miners 15-4 in six innings in the semifinals earlier Saturday.
Rudyard pitcher Trent MacDowell limited the Jets to just three hits over six innings, striking out five and walking none. Spencer Piippo pitched one inning and did not allow any hits or runs.
The Bulldogs pounded out 11 hits. Gavin Smith was 3 for 4, including a double and two RBIs. Dylan Mills was 2 for 3, including a triple, while James Burton, Tanner Norton, Trent MacDowell, Noah McLeod, Dakota MacDowell and Piippo added one hit each.
“We had a season to be proud of,” Smith said. “We fell short of where we wanted to be, but all in all, it’s still a good season. You feel bad for the seniors, and this loss will sting for awhile. But it was a great group of kids, and it was a pleasure to work with them.”
The Jets, who were playing in the regional for the first time, finish 8-15-2.
Noah Gorzinski, Hunter Riley and Wyatt Riley had hits for the Jets.
Senior Hunter Riley threw 101 pitches over six innings and gave up eight runs (six earned), while striking out three and walking two.
“Today just wasn’t our day,” North Central coach Chad Holle said. “Hunter probably pitched well enough to win. But we made errors and didn’t hit the ball. Give credit to Rudyard. They hit the ball into the gaps. And again, we made some errors. We gave them about four extra runs.”
“Their pitcher (MacDowell) had a good game,” Holle said. “We swung at too many first pitches and didn’t make him work too hard.”
The Jets lose four seniors to graduation, including Hunter Riley, Ben Snyder, Trent Holle and Shaun Gogolewski.
“It was a good year,” coach Holle said. “I thought we could be a team that got better as the season went along. We did that, and we won a district. Our season ends in regionals, but it was a good year and something to build on.”
Inland Lakes sophomore Nathaniel Wandrie delivered the game-winning RBI single into the left-centerfield gap with two outs, capping the 3-run rally against Rudyard in the finals.
Inland Lakes celebrates its first regional title since 1998.
“The seniors have been with me since they were freshmen, and we’ve been in the (regional) finals three years in a row,” Inland Lakes coach Josh Vieau said. “I told the guys, ‘Just keep fighting. We can score two runs in the sixth and walk it off in the seventh, and you just gotta believe.’
“Wandrie is an absolute stud,” said. “He hits baseballs hard every time up. When we were down to our last strike, there was nobody I’d rather have at the plate in that moment.”
Senior James Burton pitched the distance for Rudyard, and allowed seven runs (three earned) on nine hits, with six strikeouts and one walk.
The Bulldogs finished with nine hits. Noah McLeod had a single, double and four RBIs, while Burton was 2-for-3, and also had a double. Dylan Mills, Tanner Norton, Tyler Spencer and Dakota MacDowell also had hits.
Inland Lakes scored twice in the bottom of the third inning, before Rudyard came back to score three in the top of the fourth to lead 3-2.
Rudyard added three more in the top of the fifth to push its advantage to 6-2.
But Inland Lakes scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, and three in the seventh to win.
“Give props to Burton,” Vieau said. “He beat us last year. That kid is good and it took all we had to win this game today.
“When (coach) Ron VanSloten left the Rudyard program a few years ago, he left it in good hands. Their coaches do a great job. When you come to the U.P., nobody is going to back down from you. We had to go toe to toe with them, and we did.”
Caden Blumke hit two doubles and triple and drove in two runs, while Ben Schram added a single and double and two RBIs, and Ronnie Lebreque had also had two hits to lead Inland Lakes’ 9-hit attack.
Senior Ian Clancy started on the mound and gave up six runs on nine hits over 4 2-3 innings. Schramm did not allow any hits or runs over 2 1-2 innings and he collected the win.
Inland Lakes advances to play Gaylord St. Mary in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. in Petoskey Tuesday.
“We fought to the end,” Vieau said. “We’re going to the quarters and there is no better feeling in the world right now.”
— Rob Roos is the sports editor at The Evening News in Sault Ste. Marie.