Hitting was the key to Livonia Stevenson winning 22 baseball games during the regular season, but pitching had its day in the Division 1 district tournament Monday at North Farmington.
Jack Ferguson pitched a four-hit shutout in the first game as the Spartans blanked mistake-prone Farmington, 8-0.
In the championship game, Stevenson outfoxed and outplayed Harrison behind the combined pitching efforts of Gordon Ferguson and Dan Bos for a 5-1 win.
“It’s the best it’s been all year,” Spartans coach Rick Berryman said of his team’s pitching. “It was a big weekend and all the pitchers we’ve been counting on came up big. And that bodes well for us next weekend, also.
“Our strength all year (has been hitting). Our pitching today was excellent. It’s been OK all year. What we’ve done is we’ve hit well all year.”
After winning its fourth consecutive district title, Stevenson (24-12) will play Novi-Detroit Catholic Central at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the regional tournament at Novi High School.
Harrison outhit the Spartans in the final game Monday, 10-5, but couldn’t capitalize. Until the Spartans added three runs on three hits in the seventh inning to account for the final tally, those numbers were 9-2.
“But they didn’t score runs,” Berryman said. “That’s the key. They had their hits, but how many guys did we pick off?”
Three. Harrison had runners at the corners in the first inning. The Spartans made the inning-ending putout at the plate when the runner at first was caught off base.
Catcher Frank Carlin threw a runner out at second in the third inning, and Stevenson used a trick play to pick another runner off first base in the fifth.
Gordon Ferguson faked the throw to first, and the Spartans acted as if the ball skipped past the first baseman, causing the runner to try for second. He was out.
“The thing is we practice these things,” Berryman said. “I keep telling the kids, ‘It’s going to pay off in a big game,’ and two of those plays worked today.
“The kids say, ‘But, coach, it doesn’t work.’ ‘Well, you get kids’ adrenaline up, and they do stupid things in a district.’ Today is why we practice those things. Because it works. It works when we need it to work.”
Ferguson allowed seven hits and two walks over 41/3 innings and got the win, exiting with a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Bos was superb in relief, allowing three hits and no walks in the final 22/3 innings. He got the Hawks to hit into a double play to end the fifth. After giving up a leadoff single in the sixth, he struck out the next five batters.
“I was very imprssed with Gordon Ferguson and the job he did,” Berryman said. “He got tired and Dan came in. That was the plan all along (to use Bos).
“Dan is a sophomore and we’ve been working on better location with his curveball. Everything we’ve worked on, he did, so I was very impressed with the young man and the effort he gave us.”
Stevenson used alert base running to take a 2-0 lead. Mark Pettersson scored from first base on an infield single by Chris Tanderys. The Hawks tried to get Pettersson going to third and made an error on the throw.
The second run resulted from a really unusual play. With a runner on second base, everyone but the plate umpire thought Bos was hit by a pitch. Bos ran to first base as the ball bounded toward the backstop fence.
The Hawks thought it was a dead ball and hesitated. Before they knew they had to act, the runner was around third base and headed for home.
The throw was too late. The run counted when the umpire ruled Bos had not been hit by the pitch and called him back to continue the at-bat.
CJ Weiss and Pettersson had back-to-back RBI singles in the seventh; Pettersson scored the last run on a passed ball.
“We had very heads-up base running,” Berryman said. “We used the speed on our bench to create situations. We have very fast individuals that (the Hawks) were adjusting to that created misplays and our plays. The young men stepped up and played well, from the bench to the substitute runners, everybody.”
Tanderys (2-for-4) was the only Stevenson batter with two hits. Harrison’s Tommy Williams was 3-for-3, Jared Char 2-for-3 and Nico Janigian, who pitched a complete game, 2-for-4. Nick Bell had an RBI single for the Hawks.
In the first game, Jack Ferguson was highly effective, striking out four and issuing one walk. The Falcons hit six balls to the outfield – half in the last two innings. Ferguson had six assists on weak ground balls hit back to him.
“He had his command; he was able to spot pitches,” Berryman said. “Jack mixed his pitches well and kept people off balance.
“That’s kind of his style. He’s not a big strikeout pitcher, but they didn’t get great contact off him. That’s a senior and that’s how you want him to come out (and pitch).”
Gordon Ferguson was 3-for-4 and Tanderys 2-for-2 as Stevenson outhit Farmington, 7-4. Bos knocked in the first run with a single in the second inning.
The Spartans scored runs in the fourth on three hits, two walks and one error. Tanderys followed Pettersson’s two-run double with a run-scoring double.
Stevenson added three more in the fifth with just one hit – a two-run single by Tanderys – a walk and three errors.
Ravi Mahanti pitched 32/3 innings and took the loss, allowing five runs on five hits and four walks. Elliott Edsall worked an inning of relief and Alex Manasa the final 21/3.
Berryman said it took a whole season for a young team with two seniors – Jack Ferguson and Weiss – to mature and develop, but he believes the Spartans are ready for the regional challenge.
“We’re as competitive as any of those teams,” Berryman said. “We played CC and it was a 9-8 game. I think we have as good a chance as anybody that shows up there. We didn’t get to 24 wins by being slouchy.”