Many championship baseball games are decided by balls that sail over fences.
Wednesday’s pivotal KLAA South Division match-up featuring host Livonia Franklin and Plymouth was impacted by a ball that rolled under a fence.
With the Patriots trailing the Wildcats 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning in the first game of a double-header that Plymouth needed to at least split to capture a division crown, Wildcat starting pitcher Kevin Anthony sailed an attempted pick-off throw over the third baseman’s head with the bases loaded with Patriots.
All three Franklin base-runners came around to score on the play, however, the runners who were on first and second – Tyler Camp and Mitch Gonyaw – were sent back to second and third because the ball became embedded under the chain-link fence that runs parallel to the third-base line.
Anthony, who was sharp all day, then extinguished the Patriots’ rally by retiring the next three hitters on a strike-out, pop-out and ground-out to preserve his team’s 2-1 lead.
Plymouth went on to tally three runs in the top of the fifth and two more in the sixth to put the clamps on a 7-1 victory and South Division title.
Franklin needed to sweep the twinbill to earn its first division title since 2009.
Anthony was the unofficial MVP as he yielded just four hits two walks while striking out five in six innings of work. The only run he yielded in the fourth was unearned.
Wildcat reliever Kyle Wolter hit the first batter he face in the bottom of the seventh, but was spotless from then on, getting two straight ground-outs, the final one resulting in a game-ending 6-4-3 double-play.
Plymouth broke a scoreless battle in the fourth when Patrick Downing led off with a single and Cameron Stella walked.
Seth Hubbard then smoked a hard-hit grounder up the middle that deflected off the leg of Franklin pitcher Adrian Reed, who recovered in time to throw Hubbard out at first.
With Wildcats at second and third, Wolter scored Downing with a sacrifice fly to center-field. Stella scored on the play when the throw from the outfield eluded the Patriots’ third baseman.
Plymouth’s three-run fifth feature an RBI ground-out by Stella and a run-scoring single by Hubbard.
Both the Wildcats’ runs in the sixth scored without a hit as Plymouth took advantage of two Franklin errors and a pair of walks.
Churchill, John Glenn split
Pitching and defense were the names of the games Wednesday as Livonia Churchill and Westland John Glenn split a double-header in which both games ended with a 2-1 score.
The Chargers made good use of their four hits against Brendan Wetmore in the first game – a 2-1 triumph. James Rintala was lights-out good on the mound for the winners, giving up just two hits and one walk while striking out seven in a complete-game gem.
Wetmore struck out eight and did not walk a batter.
Joe Hattley led the Chargers’ offense with two hits and an RBI. Noah Cross delivered the game-winning single with two outs in the seventh.
Wetmore went 1-for-3 with a run for the Rockets.
John Glenn won the nightcap, 2-1, as freshman pitcher Brian Martin scattered four hits and two walks while fanning 13 Chargers. Losing pitcher Jon Hovermale was solid, too, giving up just five hits and three walks while striking out five over six innings.
Reed Zielinski led the winners with two hits, a walk and two stolen bases. Hovermale was 2-for-3 for Churchill.
Lutheran Westland improved to 15-4 on Thursday with a 10-0 five-inning victory over Macomb Christian. Macomb dropped to 10-8.
“I felt we did the things necessary to win tonight,” said LW head coach Kevin Wade. “We had timely hitting, solid defense and solid pitching. Our next six games will be incredibly tough so we will see what we are made of.”
Nate Abbott threw a no-hitter for the Warriors, striking out six while walking just one.
Jordan Williams was the offensive star, going 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI.
Drake Snyder, Abbott and Travis Fry also stroked two hits for the winners.
Northville sweeps Spartans
Livonia Stevenson dropped both ends of a well-played double-header Wednesday at state-ranked Northville, falling 2-1 and 5-3.
The Spartans slipped to 18-9 overall and 9-6 in the KLAA Kensington Conference while the Mustangs improved to 22-2 and 16-0, respectively.
Northville starting pitcher Evan Flohr was stingy in the opener, limiting the Spartans to seven hits and a walk while fanning seven. Stevenson hurler Gordon Ferguson was stellar as well, giving up just three hits and four walks while striking out three Mustangs in six innings.
Northville scored both its runs in the third. Stevenson’s lone run came in the fourth on Ferguson’s RBI single that scored Frank Carlin. Ferguson and Dan Bos both had two hits for the Spartans.
The Mustangs jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings before repelling a late Stevenson push. Ian Borthwick earned the complete-game win after giving up nine hits. Dan Bullard took the loss.
C.J. Weiss and Danny Morris both ripped a pair of hits for Stevenson. Jack Ferguson contributed a two-run single and a run.
RU drops heart-breaker
On Monday, Dearborn Heights Annapolis erased a 3-0 fourth-inning deficit and outlasted Redford Union, 7-6, in a Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red Division encounter. The loss dropped RU pitcher Vince Diaz’s record to 5-3.
Brandon Pratt was the Panthers’ No. 1 catalyst, drawing three walks and ripping a double in addition to scoring three runs. Diaz added a single and two RBI.
On Thursday, the Panthers rebounded with an 11-1 victory (in five innings) over Dearborn Fordson. Starting pitcher Jacob Gagnon improved to 2-1 with a strong outing while the Panthers were led offensively by Brendan McGurk (3-for-4, four RBI), Brendan Kerkhof (two RBI) and Gagnon (two hits).
RU took a 15-5 overall record and 7-1 mark in the division into Saturday’s pair of games at Livonia’s Ford Field against Allen Park (3 p.m.) and Catholic Central (7:30 p.m.).
Annapolis edges Eagles
Redford Thurston received a stellar pitching effort by Austin Benoit (six innings, two earned runs, five hits, four strike-outs) Thursday afternoon, but lost to Dearborn Heights Annapolis, 3-2.
Thurston seized an early 1-0 lead in the third when Bobby Snell walked and ultimately scored when the catcher overthrew the third baseman while Snell stole third. The Eagles added another run in the fourth when Zack June singled, Nygel Beaman and Travis Wesenberg walked and Snell drew an RBI walk.
Trojans down Eagles
Clarenceville scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning and held on to beat host Redford Thurston in a Western Wayne Red Division game Thursday, 6-3.
Freshman Nick Bisaro pitched three scoreless innings of relief to get the win. Ryan Menifee went five innings and gave up three runs – none of which was earned – and three hits.
“Ryan struggled finding the plate, especially in the fifth inning, and he never really got into a rhythm,” coach Craig Cotter said.
He added the Trojans had great discipline at the plate. Clarenceville batters worked six walks and were hit by pitches three times.
“Even when we made outs, we were having seven-pitch at-bats,” Cotter said.
Bobby Snell pitched the first six innings for Thurston, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out five Trojans. Chalfontae Phillips delivered a two-run single for the Eagles in the fifth.
Menifee and Matt Drain led the offense with two hits apiece. Jayson Harris reached base four times; Bisaro and Adam Sade also had hits.
Menifee had a two-out, two-run single to give the Trojans two insurance runs in the eighth inning and pushed the lead to three runs.
Second baseman Mitch Kubiak played great defensively, according to Cotter.
“He made a great diving stop in the eighth and was able to field cleanly three other balls hit right in front of runners,” he said.
The Trojans were in second place with a 5-2 division record going into a Friday game with Dearborn Heights Robichaud.