It didn’t take long — a 10-run first inning all but wrapped things up — for St. Clair to advance to the semifinals of Michigan’s 12-and-under Little League baseball state tournament.
At 9 a.m. today, St. Clair will meet Kent County’s Byron Township in the state semifinals. The winner will duel with either Midland or Grosse Pointe Park in the state championship game at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Meijer Field in suburban Muskegon.
After taking a 10-0 early lead Monday, St. Clair went on to defeat Dowagiac, 12-0, in a game called after four innings by the mercy rule.
Tom Gleason, the St. Clair coach, said his players took nothing for granted even after seizing a big lead. After a scoreless second inning, they returned to the dugout and asked their coach if they “won the inning.”
The umpire overheard this and was impressed, asking Gleason: “You guys are up 10-0, and your guys are worried winning the inning?”
Mark Estapa’s two-run homer in the third inning gave St. Clair a 12-0 lead, and Parker Griffor had a pair of hits for the ballclub.
Brady Gleason worked three innings and struck out five batters while throwing only 35 pitches, which means he’ll be eligible to take the mound again Wednesday is St. Clair advances to the championship game.
Max Gottler pitched the fourth inning and preserved the shutout.
Coach Matt Distelrath said he knows very little about Byron Township beyond what he has seen at the state tournament.
“I watched them a couple times,” he said. “They are a very fundamentally sound team. They are a deep pitching team, too.”
Michigan’s champion will move into regional play, where a Midwest champion will emerge to compete in the Little League World Series next month at Williamsport, Pennsylvania.