Sunshine. No wind. 63-degree warmth.
April Fool’s Day, right?
But Mother Nature didn’t play any pranks on Wednesday, although the Waterford Kettering baseball team could be excused for thinking they had been pranked somehow.
That after Brighton swept the Captains 6-0 and 7-1 behind strong pitching, airtight defense and an offense that got better as the games went on in the Bulldogs’ season-opening doubleheader at Brighton High School.
The pitching was particularly strong; Alexx Zielinski had 11 strikeouts in six innings of one-hit ball in the opener, while Carson Hopman was perfect in his four innings of work in the nightcap.
“All of us threw strikes today,” Hopman said. “We were strong all the way through.”
“We did a lot of really good things, especially for the first day playing games outside,” Brighton coach Charlie Christner said. “Pitching’s always ahead at this time of year. I was pleased our defense was as good as it was. It tooka while for our hitting to get going, but once it did, we got better swings as the day went on.”
The opener looked like it was going to be a pitcher’s duel. Both Zielinski and Kettering’s Jordan Masters retired the first nine hitters in order, although Masters needed a double play to do so in the second.
In the top of the fourth, Kettering looked like it was about to mount a one-out rally after a walk and a single. A wild pitch put both runners in scoring position, but Zielinski struck out the next two hitters to get out of the jam.
Masters wasn’t so lucky.
Jared Dokey led off the fourth with a walk, one of four for the Brighton junior on the afternoon. He stole second, went to third on Hopman’s grounder to third and scored on a single by Colin McClelland, who later scored on Justin Steele’s double.
Brighton added four more in the fifth, highlighted by Hopman’s triple, while Zielinski allowed just two hits. Steele pitched the seventh, striking out two.
The Bulldogs didn’t wait as long to get going in the nightcap.
Dokey and Hopman walked to start the game, then scored on McClelland’s two-run double and the Bulldogs slowly pulled away.
Brighton had seven hits, but also drew seven walks.
“I thought we saw the ball pretty well,” Christner said. “We didn’t swing at any bad pitches, so from that standpoint. The hitting will come around. I’m not worried about that, and I shouldn’t be – we put up 13 runs today – but all in all, the first day being outside and playing, it was a really good day.”
“We just came in with confidence,” Hopman said. “A lot of their hitters were behind our fastballs, so we stuck with them. We didn’t have throw much offspeed. The fastball, if we located it, worked well for us.”
The conditions were near-perfect, especially for April in Michigan, and the Bulldogs savored the day.
“The weather hasn’t been that great the last couple weeks, and we come out today and it’s nice,” Hopman said. “It was great. We were excited.”
The first game counted in the league standings for both teams. The second game was added to give more players the chance to see action and take advantage of the sunshine.
The Brighton team expects more sunshine Friday, when the Bulldogs gather in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for four days of workouts and scrimmages before players take off for the rest of spring break.
“I think this trip to Myrtle Beach will help us come together as a team, not only baseball-wise, but come together as a family,” Zielinski said. “A lot of guys know each other, and some are (new). I think this will bring us together.”
“This is the third year we’ve done it, and it’s been productive and positive,” Christner said.