Has the balance of power in Interscholastic Athletic Conference baseball shifted a few miles east, from Lansing to Dryden?
At least for this year, the answer appears to be yes. The Purple Lions erupted for six runs on five hits in the fifth inning and went on to defeat the host Bobcats, 10-6, on Monday at Lansing High.
The bottom three batters in the lineup combined for seven hits and six runs scored for Dryden (11-3 overall, 9-1 IAC North Large), which took a two-game lead in the division over Lansing (8-5, 6-2). Bruno Bugliosi got the win in relief of Purple Lions starter John Whitmore, who gave up five runs in 32⁄3 innings.
Dryden — which also beat Lansing, 9-2, on April 14 in Dryden — scored three times in the second inning and once more in the third to take a 4-1 lead before the Bobcats battled back to take a 5-4 lead after four.
“It’s exactly what you want, you want to get up early like we did,” Dryden coach Kim Brown said. “But credit Lansing, they came back and battled hard and put us in a tough position. In high school athletics, things don’t always come easy, but we did a nice job coming back. We could have hung our heads, but we continued to put the ball in play and with authority. When you do that, you’re really going to give yourself a chance.”
Whitmore, Dryden’s No. 9 hitter, went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs, while No. 8 hitter Joel Potter added three hits and two RBIs. Justen Geddes, batting seventh, sparked the Lions’ three-run second with a two-out double and was the first of six straight batters to reach base in the inning. Dryden pounded out 16 hits overall.
Lansing, two years removed from a state Class C title, managed eight hits off Whitmore and Bugliosi, three of them from senior Alex Schutz and two from Pat Judd. Schutz got picked off first after singling home leadoff hitter Ben Kutler in the fourth inning to make it 5-4 Lansing, derailing a potentially big inning, and the Bobcats would collect three hits the rest of the way.
“We didn’t pitch very well, we didn’t run the bases very well and I think that really contributed to our problems,” Lansing coach Stu Dean said. “And they (Dryden) hit the ball pretty good, so you’ve got to give them credit.”
Dryden took charge of the game in the fifth inning, sending nine men to the plate and scoring six of them. Whitmore and catcher Brian Colbert both had two-run doubles in the inning, and a Lansing error — the only one of the game — helped extend the rally.
Geddes, Potter and Whitmore all had base hits in the inning.
“Credit the bottom of the order,” Brown said. “Those guys really put the bat on the ball hard and allowed our guys who typically drive in runs to have runners on base.”
Bugliosi came on with two outs in the fourth inning and got the Bobcats’ Jared Strait to fly out to centerfield. Whitmore had trouble throwing strikes, particularly over his final two innings, and Brown was pleased with his third baseman’s relief job.
“That’s a tough spot,” Brown said. “We knew he had something to give us today because he hasn’t thrown a lot lately. And when John’s pitch count got up there and he was struggling to throw strikes, we knew we were going to have to go to someone. (Bruno) was basically the only guy that was really available, to be honest.
“He did a really good job,” he added. “I thought he could have done a better job in his first two innings throwing strike 1, thank goodness he finally found it in the seventh inning and threw a lot of strikes.”
Bugliosi, who made a couple of terrific plays himself at third base, benefited from a sensational running backhand catch in centerfield from senior Alan Davis, robbing Pat Judd of an extra base hit. Bugliosi got Lansing freshman Jesse Richardson out on a called third strike to end the game.
Bugliosi said he thinks his team has the talent to make a deep run this postseason.
“There are no holes in our lineup,” he said. “We’re great defensively, outfield and infield, and we have a great pitching staff. I think we can do really well.”
Dean, on the other hand, said his team might be a pitcher or two away, although he credited Richardson with doing the job over the final two innings in relief.
“For the past three games, I thought we played really well,” he said. “But today, for whatever reason, we didn’t get the pitching I thought we were going to get. The silver lining may have been Jesse, I thought he came in and pitched well. He was pretty composed and he kept it at 10, which is all we could ask of him.”