EAST LANSING – Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice might have been making its third-straight trip to the MHSAA Semifinals and Grand Blanc its first ever, but Grand Blanc certainly wasn't nervous to start Thursday’s second Division 1 game at McLane Stadium.
Excited and ready from the first pitch, Grand Blanc scored four runs in the first inning, which set the tone for a 9-1 win.
“It can be a double-edge sword in certain situations,” Grand Blanc Kevin Hubbs said. “We kind of told our kids the pressure was kind of on them in a way because they’ve been here so many times. This is our first time. We just told the kids to come out and have fun regardless of what happens. If you’ve seen our kids in the dugout all season, win or lose, they are going to leave the ballpark having fun.”
Grand Blanc (32-11) jumped on Brother Rice in the top of the first inning, sending 10 hitters to the plate.
The Bobcats built a 3-0 lead just five batters into the game, and rolled from there in advancing to meet Portage Central in Saturday’s 9 a.m. championship game.
Following a leadoff double, Jonah Meleski scored after a bunt single by AJ Maxwell and subsequent throwing error. Following a walk to David Lally and a strikeout, Nathan Fidelino lined a two-run double down the right field line to make it 3-0 Grand Blanc. Brother Rice answered with a run in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI groundout by Will Shannon.
Grand Blanc kept up the pressure in the second, loading the bases and taking a 6-1 lead on a two-run single with two outs by Dylan Bowen. The Bobcats added a run in the fourth inning when Tim Welsh walked with the bases loaded to make it 7-1. They then made it 9-1 in the fifth inning with a two-out rally after the first two men were retired; Fidelino hit an RBI single to left, and then pinch hitter Kyle Keener hit an RBI single to right.
The damage done by Grand Blanc actually could have been worse. In addition to 12 hits, the Bobcats drew 10 walks and had three batters hit by Brother Rice pitching.
Fidelino finished 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored, and Bowen added two hits and two RBI to lead the attack for Grand Blanc.
“It’s surreal,” Fidelino said. “I’ve never felt anything like it. We had a whole city on our back today. It felt great. This is the best team we’ve ever had, and this is the furthest we’ve ever gone. Every game, we leave it all on the field.”
Lally, who has committed to Notre Dame, allowed four hits and struck out five in six innings of work on the mound for the Bobcats.
Brother Rice finished its season 29-11.
Portage Central 5, Midland Dow 1
Signed with Tennessee, Brasosky was in complete control Thursday, allowing one run, four singles and striking out 10 to lead Central to a 5-1 win over Midland Dow.
Brasosky didn’t give up a hit until Dow’s Tom Biacagalupo singled with two out in the fifth inning.
Central (35-4) advanced to the championship game for the first time since 2002, when it defeated Warren Mott to clinch the Division 1 title.
“I was a little sore,” Brasosky said. “But as I kept going, I felt a little better. I was trying to win so we could play on Saturday, and that’s what we did.”
Brasosky’s performance was needed, as Central’s normally high-powered offense generated only five hits against Dow pitching.
“I told him that he couldn’t have picked a better way to finish his career on the mound,” Central head coach Cory DeGroote said. “We really had to grind at the plate. They gave us a lot of different looks with a lot of different pitchers. We had to use our bunt game.”
Portage Central opened the scoring in the first on an RBI sacrifice fly by Zach MacDonald, then added two more in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead on a two-run single by Will Sachwitz.
The Mustangs added another run in the fourth on an RBI sacrifice fly by Luke Leto.
Dow did rally in the sixth inning and got on the board, cutting Central’s lead to 4-1 on an RBI single with two outs by Logan McCoy. But with runners on first and second, Brasosky induced a popout to end the inning.
Central added insurance in the bottom of the sixth, taking a 5-1 lead on an RBI squeeze bunt by Cole Mason. Dow (27-15) also put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning, but Brasosky shut down that threat with back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Blanc’s Nathan Fidelino rounds second base during his team’s Semifinal win over Brother Rice on Thursday. (Middle) Portage Central’s Gavin Brasosky makes his move toward the plate.