The Saline varsity baseball team won its sixth straight district championship Monday at Saline High School.
Logan Evans struck out 13 batters in a seven-inning two hitter as Saline beat Ypsilanti-Lincoln, 1-0, in the district semi-final. The Hornets then went on to defeat Huron, 10-3, in the district final.
Saline will play Canton in the regional semifinal at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Plymouth High School. The winner advances to the regional final to play Allen Park or Woodhaven at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, at Kalamazoo College.
The district semifinal actually began Saturday afternoon, when Lincoln loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first. Evans struck the next batter and then got a doubleplay ball to end the inning. With one out in the bottom of the first, the game was suspended due to lightning.
When play resumed Monday, Evans was unhittable. He allowed a runner to reach base on an error in the second and walked a man in the third. Lincoln’s hitters went 0-for-19 with 12 strikeouts and a walk against Evans Monday. The closest a Railsplitter came to scoring was in the third inning, when Ethan Rose reached base on a walk with two out and took second on a wild pitch.
Coach Al Zeiher has high expectations of his senior pitcher, but Zeiher was impressed by Evans Monday.
“With Logan on the mound, you always have a chance to win. But today, man, he was just lights out,” Zeiher said. “He had his best stuff we’ve seen all year.”
Saline needed that kind of dominance because Lincoln’s Javian Davis was nearly as good. He allowed three hits and three walks in 6 ⅔ innings.
Saline won the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Aidan Corrigan led the inning with a single to right. He advanced to second on a bunt by Kyler Blake-Jones. Kolton Malinczak pinch ran for Corrigan. Jack O’Keefe and Cam Daniels walked to load the bases. Aidan Arbaugh drove home Malinczak with a sacrifice fly to left.
The Hornets charged out of their dugout to celebrate the victory.
“We had good energy and we were able to scratch one out,” Zeiher said. “We knew Lincoln was going to come at us with everything we had.”
At 3:30 p.m., Saline and Huron faced off in the district final.
Hayden Glover started for Huron and Lance Blaszak started for Saline.
Noah Nelson walked to start the game. He stole second and third - but the Hornets left him there. Blaszak allowed a walk and another runner reached on an error in the bottom of the first, but he escaped unharmed with a strikeout for the third out.
Saline put the lead-off man on base again in the second when Corrigan walked. O’Keefe was hit by a pitch to put runners and first and second with one out. But Huron got a doubleplay ball to end the threat. In the bottom of the second, Huron scored two runs. Blaszak walked the lead-off man, who was then bunted over to second. The runner took third when catcher Cam Daniels threw to second for a pick-off attempt - but nobody covered. The next batter doubled over the head of CF Alex Morrison, driving in the game’s first run. A wild pitch moved the runner to third. Huron scored a second run on an error by Nelson at short.
It wasn’t the start Saline wanted.
But Saline didn’t Huron enjoy the lead for very long. In the top of the third, with one out, Nelson walked. With two out, Nelson stole second. When the throw went into centerfield, Nelson took third. He turned around and saw the centerfielder was still holding the ball, so he raced to the plate and scored.
“He gets a walk, he steals a base and scores a run all by himself - no balls hit in play. We needed that positive momentum to get us going, and then we got another run and it kind of opened up for us,” Zeiher said. “So that was big.”
Morrison walked and then scored when the Huron leftfielder lost Evans high flyball in the sun. The game was tied at 2 after Evans triple.
Jacob Whitley relieved Blaszak in the bottom of the third. He retired the first 10 batters he faced. He earned the win, going five innings, allowing one unearned run on five hits and no walks. He struck out three.
Saline blew up for eight runs in the fifth. A bases loaded walk to Morrison gave Saline a 3-2 lead. Evans followed with a line drive two-run double to center, making it 5-2. Corrigan followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2. After a single by Blake-Jones, O’Keefe drilled an RBI double to left to make it 7-2. Cam Daniels followed with a two-run double to left. Nelson made it 10-2 with a single to left.
The Hornets enjoyed their district trophy on the field at Saline High School Monday afternoon, snapping pictures with teammates and friends. That’s what coach Zeiher wanted to see before the Hornets began practicing for Wednesday’s game against Canton.
“We’re going to enjoy this. Anytime you win a championship it’s something to celebrate because I’ve been other places and I know that we just can’t take this for granted,” Zeiher said. “We’ll celebrate this and try and get back tomorrow and get a good work in and try and put our best foot forward on Wednesday.”