After a dominant semifinal win over Mancelona on Friday, Lansing Catholic had high hopes that it could win its first state championship since 1996.
But waiting for the Cougars in the Division 3 final on Saturday were standout pitcher Brian Bayliss and the defending state champion Ventures of Madison Heights Bishop Foley, who won 8-2.
“They’re a good ball club,” Lansing Catholic coach Mike Scott said. “We can walk away saying ‘they beat us, we didn’t beat ourselves.’ Eventually, these kids will be able to walk away with their heads held high.”
The Cougars finished the season 31-7.
Brett Sunde hit a two-run homer in the first inning and the Ventures added two runs in the third to take a 4-0 lead.
The Cougars’ offense responded and began to chip away at Bayliss in the fourth.
Senior Dillon Rush, who started on the mound for Lansing Catholic, hit a line drive up the middle to bring home Mike DeClarke.
The Cougars added another run in the fifth when junior Jacob Phifer dropped a base hit into right field, bringing home Tommy Carter. Carter had led the inning off with a double, driving the ball deep into right-center field.
Meanwhile, the Cougars infield made a couple of superb double plays to keep a potent Ventures offense at bay.
Sophomore Austin Krause, who started for just the second time this season, played well at second base, playing a key role in both double plays.
“He (Krause) really stepped it up well,” said Scott who also credited his seniors for pulling the team together to make the playoff run. “They gutted it out right to the end.”
The Cougars trailed 4-2 in the sixth inning. After an error and a walk, Scott moved Rush to shortstop and brought in lefthander Eric Pleahn.
But the Ventures scored four runs to build the lead to 8-2.
“Over time, they’ll look back and realize how special of a time this was for them,” Scott said of his players. “We put everything we had out there, and they (Ventures) were a better team.”