EAST LANSING – Harrison Salter saw the ball travel up the middle into centerfield, and ran to first while pumping his right fist the entire trip up the baseline. The junior catcher’s RBI single was the exclamation point as Orchard Lake St. Mary’s defeated Mt. Pleasant, 4-1, in Saturday’s Division 2 final at Michigan State.
“I was just really excited and proud for our team,” Salter said. “We’ve been practicing the whole year for this moment and when it came up, I had the chance to get it in and I succeeded, I think.”
St. Mary’s (32-13) didn’t have to overpower the Oilers, and for the most part didn’t, with just six hits. It’s just that the Eaglets were able to string together more scoring plays throughout the contest. Timely hits from Salter, Joe Carlini and Drake Titus all drove in runs, while pitcher Greg Loukinen limited the Oilers (27-13) to four hits.
“We had a lot of passion and drive — all we wanted to do was win,” Salter said. “We didn’t care what anybody else said, we just wanted to win. We have great pitching, in Greg Loukinen and Scott Grant and Drake Titus, and when we get our hitting around that’s all we’ve got to do.”
Carlini doubled home Griffin Sheposh in the second inning with the eventual winning run, while Titus’ single later in the inning brought home Carlini to make it 3-1 Eaglets.
Mt. Pleasant had a one-run lead in the top of the first inning, but the Oilers didn’t capitalize to the full extent after four batters reached safely on a single, two errors and a hit batsman. One runner was picked off and Loukinen coerced the final out on a ground ball, stranding two others.
“We could have scored another run because they had a miscue in the outfield but I think our runner wasn’t aware of what was going on, and with the pickoff, that could have been three runs instead of one. Who knows what happens after that — it changes the complexion of the game,” Mount Pleasant coach Luke Epple said.
“It could have been a lot bigger inning than it was, but we got the key out when we needed it,” Coach Matt Petry said. “(Greg) picked a guy off and he finally settled down after the first inning. It’s good to have a little bit of nerves there and he settled down. I think that run in the bottom of the first for us helped out a lot in getting him to relax.”
St. Mary’s got that run in the bottom of the inning without benefit of a hit. With two out, Mason Vaughn walked, stole second, and advanced to third and home on a pair of wild pitches.
Epple – who guided the Oilers to titles in 2014, 2007 and 1996 — credited the St. Mary’s pitcher for being on his game. Loukinen struck out seven, including three in the final inning.
“The lefty kept us off-balance a little bit,” Epple said. “He had a good change-up and he would start us off on that pitch once in a while, and of course we thought it was (going to be) a fastball, and we were out in front, and you notice how many times we hit the ball in the air. When you hit the ball in the air, those are easy outs, it doesn’t challenge anybody, really.”
It’s the third official state title for the Eaglets, who also won in 1998 and 2003. The school also claims a mythical state championship from 1913, before the Michigan High School Athletic Association was established.