Tyler Waldrop had a bad taste from the last time he was on the mound.
The Grand Ledge senior bounced back Tuesday with a memorable final outing to end his prep career.
Waldrop struck out 14 in seven strong innings while helping the Comets end their season with a 4-1 victory over St. Johns in the Diamond Classic championship game at Cooley Law School Stadium.
Tuesday’s title was the second straight and sixth in seven years for Grand Ledge. The Comets have won the Classic 25 times in the 54-year history of the event.
Finishing the season with a title eased the sting of an early exit from the state tournament for Grand Ledge (31-6-1).
“This is very big for us,” Grand Ledge senior Jake Ellis. “We wanted to come back strong. Not many people can say they ended up winning their last game, especially with that being the last high school game.”
Waldrop, who was named the Diamond Classic MVP, was a big part in making sure the Comets ended their season with a win.
“After that disappointment Saturday, it’s nice that in my last game to at least come out on top,” said Waldrop, who was the losing pitcher in relief in a 2-1 loss in the district final to Holt in his last appearance on the mound.
“I really love this team this year. We were a scrappy team and it felt really nice to win a championship with these guys.”
Waldrop allowed just one run during while pitching the Comets to two victories in the Classic. He set the Grand Ledge school record for strikeouts in a season (118) with his dominant outing Tuesday.
St. Johns (23-12) had a few opportunities to get to Waldrop but were turned away. The Redwings stranded the bases loaded in the opening inning, as Waldrop escaped the jam by retiring the final two hitters on strikeouts.
“That was the biggest part was getting that first inning out of the way and getting back to that good feeling (on the mound),” Waldrop said. “I was kind of wild in the seventh on Saturday so it was nice to come out and have my stuff again.”
Waldrop also escaped trouble in the fourth. After his balk with the bases loaded led to St. Johns scoring its lone run, Waldrop struck out the next two hitters to force the Redwings to strand runners on second and third.
“When you stress him and press him his will power is tremendous,” veteran Grand Ledge coach Pat O’Keefe said. “As I said before, I don’t know if there’s a better pitcher in the state. If I had one game to go after, he’d be my guy.”
Sam Goodman’s RBI double to left field with two outs in the fourth broke what was a scoreless game. Jordan Goebel drove in a run later in the inning, before St. Johns pulled within one in the bottom half on the balk.
The Comets added to their lead in the fifth on a RBI triple by Jake Ellis and a sacrifice fly by Brendan Baker.
That provided more than enough offense for Waldrop.
“He’s very good,” St. Johns coach Jake Parker said. “He’s got four pitches that he mixes in there and he throws hard. We haven’t seen a guy like that all year. We did a good job. We hung in, we had great at-bats, we put runners on base. We had guys on base all night, we just didn’t get that one hit we needed that would have given us a big run.”
Contact Brian Calloway at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.