BASEBALL: Clarkston ousts Brighton, advances to first Final Four since 2002

| June 11, 2014 | Comments (0)


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NOVI — When he learned early Tuesday that he would be given the ball on the mound for Clarkston’s Division 1 baseball state quarterfinal against Brighton, David Steward didn’t feel many nerves.

In fact, he was quite calm and ready to go.

The senior right-hander, who pitched 6 2/3 innings less than 72 hours prior in a regional finals victory over White Lake Lakeland, showed no signs of being tired Tuesday. He went the distance against Brighton in the Division 1 state quarterfinals at Novi High School and led the Wolves to a convincing 4-1 victory over the 31-7 Bulldogs.

Clarkston (21-12) advanced to its first final four since 2002 and third in school history. The Wolves also won the Class A state title back in 1976.

“David was ready to go. He is that type of kid,” said Clarkston coach Phil Price. “He wasn’t just out there throwing. He was pitching smart and mixing up his pitches. He wanted to pitch.”

Steward threw 75 pitches late Saturday afternoon in the Wolves’ 7-1 victory over Lakeland and was sterling against Brighton. He scattered seven hits, struck out five, walked two and let another batter reach base on a fielder’s choice to improve his record to 7-3.

“I was ready to go. I wasn’t tired and I still feel great,” admitted Steward, who was in Kindergarten the last time Clarkston made it to the state semifinals. “I just wanted to help my team win and get (to the Final Four). I think I had a lot of adrenaline.”

BRINGING SOME HEAT: Clarkston senior right-hander David Steward pitched a complete game seven-hiotter Tuesday in leading the Wolves past Brighton 4-1 in the Division 1 state quarterfinals. Staff Photo | Dan Stickradt

BRINGING SOME HEAT: Clarkston senior right-hander David Steward pitched a complete game seven-hitter Tuesday in leading the Wolves past Brighton 4-1 in the Division 1 state quarterfinals. Staff Photo | Dan Stickradt

Clarkston will face defending state champion and fourth-ranked Bay City Western at 5 p.m. Thursday at Michigan State University.

The Wolves gave Steward plenty of support, jumping on Brighton for three runs in the bottom of the first and adding an insurance run in the fifth. Clarkston made just one error in the field.

“I’m sure that helped with confidence, but we had confidence in David,” said Price. “The one strength on this team is our pitching depth. I have five really good pitchers. We had two pitchers ready to go today, but David said he felt great so we went with him. He’s been reliable for us all year.”

Clarkston’s first four hitters counted for a walk, two hits and another reaching base on an error, which quickly led to a 3-0 advantage.

Junior Joe Popp, the Wolves’ No. 3 hitter, laced a two-run double to left field that plated senior Jacob Armstrong and junior DJ Zezula. Steward helped his own cause with a single to right-center that scored Popp and put the Wolves in control.

“That set the tone, the first inning” smiled Price. “We just said to get three and play some ‘D.’ We played good defense behind David and we never allowed more than (two) baserunners in an inning.”

Brighton got on the board in the third when senior Robert Spencer singled to lead off the inning and later crossed the plated on a passed ball.

“I thought their pitcher did a real nice job,” conceded Brighton coach Charlie Christner. “We had some chances, but each time he pitched his way out of it. Had one of those (fly outs) dropped in for a hit, then it might have been different.”

Clarkston added its final run in the fifth when Steward’s bloop single scored Armstrong, who reached base via a single earlier in the frame.

Brighton put two runners on base in the seventh and had runners on second and third with one out. Steward struck out junior Tanner Hoard and got Spencer to fly out to deep left-center to end the game and send the unranked Wolves into the final weekend of the season.

“We started out the season kind of slow, but we have picked it up lately and are playing our best baseball of the season right now,” said Price.

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