By: John Raffel
Beal City back on top as Division 4 champs
Beal City baseball is definitely back.
The program that had produced state titles in 2009 and 2010 and runner-up finishes in 2013 and 2014 was back at the top again produced another state crown with 10-0 win over Unionville-Sebewaing in the state final.
The season ended with a 23-8 record under Coach Steve Pickens, the successor to Brad Antcliff who coached the Aggies to the other titles.
“My kids executed in all aspects,” Pickens said. “They were hitting on all cylinders. We went through the lineup once. Keegan Haynes and Lucas Schumacher had a fantastic day. He bunted three times for base hits. We fielded well.”
Not many title games end with the mercy rule. But it did in the Division 4 title game. It was scoreless after three innings, but the Aggies exploded with single runs in the fourth and fifth inning and eight in the sixth. Haynes’ fourth-inning double and Colby Berryhill's fifth-inning single gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead. But the Aggies absolutely exploded in the sixth. Ryan Schafer’s two-run single got it going. Colby Berryhill followed with a two-run single. Brett Upton had an RBI double. Kollion Sharrer had an RBI, groundout. Haynes and Nate Wilson followed with RBI singles.
Lucas Schumacher and Haynes had three hits apiece.
Upton was superb with a one-hitter in six innings. He walked two and fanned six.
“My pitcher threw strikes,” Pickens said. “He has a Bulldog attitude. He went after them. That’s what we wanted. He did very well with that. We hit the ball, we fielded the ball and we caught the ball. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
The season ended at 23-8 for the Aggies.
“With the roll we went on, we had shutouts against Coleman and Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, which was the seventh-ranked team in the state,” Pickens said.
Beal City got the week going with a 9-2 win over Muskegon Catholic Central, allowing just two unearned runs.
“The boys are playing very well right now,” Pickens said after the quarterfinal. “My No. 2, 3 4 and hitters only got one hit and the bottom half of my lineup 7, 8 and 9 really came through for us. In the nine hole, we were 4-of-4 on base. The seven hole we got a triple and single for another RBI.
Upton fanned 107 batters going through the quarterfinals. He’s going to Mott Community College.
Sharrer and Upton have been among the team’s top hitters with more than 80 at bats apiece.
Pickens was wary of Gaylord St. Mary, ranked fourth in the state.
“It’s a tough Final Four,” he said prior to the semifinals.
The Aggies scored six runs the first two innings in the semifinal against Gaylord St. Mary. Haynes had three hits and two RBIs. He pitched the first four innings and gave up three runs on seven hits. Upton and Aaron Schafer pitched the final two innings.
“I’m throwing my No. 3 pitcher in a tough situation,” Pickens said. “It worked. The kids picked each other up.”
Yes, the Aggies had eight regular season losses, but consider the competition.
“I lost to Bay City Western, Saginaw Heritage, which at the time was ranked No. 1 in Division, I lost to Midland Dow, who had a high ranking this year and to Birmingham-Seaholm, and to defending state champ in Division 2, Bay City John Glenn,” Pickens said. “I had one Division 4 team beat me this year, Sacred Heart Academy. They beat us the first game 7-4. We mercied them in the second game. I had confidence in the kids.”
It’s a new era.