When Plymouth senior first baseman Seth Hubbard fielded the groundball and stepped on the bag for the final out of Monday’s 2-1 win over Westland John Glenn, he was happily met by senior pitcher Kevin Anthony.
They then rushed over to the pitcher’s mound where they were joined by the rest of their delirious Wildcats teammates after closing out Plymouth’s first-ever Division 1 baseball district championship.
And over in the dugout, Plymouth head coach Jason Crain probably flicked away a bead or two of sweat —simply because the Rockets were a tough opponent to finish off.
“He (Anthony) closed it up like a good senior does,” Crain said. “He stepped up there, he threw strikes. He had to be a little tired after throwing on Saturday, but his pitch count was really low on Saturday.
“I asked him if he felt strong, he said he felt great. Sure enough, he came in and did the job.”
Anthony started the sixth inning after junior pitcher Cameron Stella threw five strong frames, only giving up a run in the top of the sixth to slice Plymouth’s lead to 2-1 (the Wildcats scratched runs across in the first and third innings).
Plymouth, which matched a school record for victories (27-12, equalling the mark set by the 2012 team), got on the board in the first when Andrew Hejka walked and scored on a base hit by Pete Carravallah.
The Wildcats padded the lead to 2-0 in the third. Hubbard’s fielder’s choice brought home Carravallah, who had his second hit of the game.
John Glenn sliced that edge to 2-1 in the fifth and had the bases loaded in the sixth, threatening to tie or take the lead. But Anthony, who blanked Livonia Churchill in Saturday’s rain-shortened district semifinal, gutted it out.
Anthony then threw a 1-2-3 seventh to close out the historic victory.
“I definitely was pumped up and ready to get this done and get this district title,” Anthony said. “It’s the best feeling, to be playing with all the guys I’ve been playing with since I was 9, and before that. It’s the greatest feeling, outstanding.”
According to Stella, he knew he would give his team a chance to win by staying ahead in the count. For the most part, that’s what he did.
“I feel like I did well, first-pitch strikes were definitely a big factor in today’s game,” Stella said. “We just focus on staying strong and just calming down and getting it over the plate, hoping for the best.”
The Stella-Anthony combo barely outdueled John Glenn freshman pitcher Brian Martin, who gave up just four hits. In addition to Carravallah (two hits), the only other Plymouth hits were tallied by Hejka and Josh Sulak.
“Their pitcher, complete credit to that kid,” Crain said. “He’s a freshman and he pitched a great ballgame. No pitcher should lose a 2-1 baseball game, but fortunately we got a run more than they did.”
Rockets head coach Lawrence Scheffer tipped his cap to the Wildcats, but also praised Martin and the rest of his own team (18-17 record).
“We beat two good teams (in the Plymouth High School-hosted district) and we had our chances to beat Plymouth,” Scheffer said. “… Hats off to Plymouth and I’m proud of all my seniors. They didn’t expect the John Glenn Rockets to come through to win the pre-district (against Canton), beat Salem, and be in the championship game. I’m pretty proud of my guys.”
Scheffer added that Martin’s “been a workhorse all year for us, I’m very proud of him as a freshman pitcher. The way he throws the ball he looks like a junior or senior out there, but he just turned 15. So he’s going to be a dandy.”
Plymouth will advance to Saturday’s Saline regional, potentially facing the Hornets at 10 a.m. in the first game of the day.
“It’s a great team, we’re going to have to play our best game to have a chance,” said Crain, about Saline. “But I’m excited to have the opportunity.”
Saline has to win Tuesday’s district final first, but the Hornets are favored.
As for the Wildcats, second-year coach Crain said the program is starting to gain some traction.
“The seniors are building something great here, back to back seasons,” Crain said. “They won 25 ballgames games last year and this year 27. They got a division and a district.
“It’s just credit to them, they stepped up. They’re building the program. We’re just here helping them along, but it’s the boys that are doing all the work.”