ST. CLAIR – They are only 9-and-10 years old.
But for much of the summer, the St. Clair 9-10 Little League team played well beyond its age. On Tuesday, however, St. Clair was beset with six errors that proved costly and eventually led to the end of their run at the state tournament.
Midland North East defeated St. Clair, 12-1 Tuesday to advance into today’s championship game. North East will face Bay City, which defeated Grosse Pointe, 6-5 on a passed ball in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“I thought our pitchers did their job, we just didn’t have the bats today,” said Carter Boullard, who had one of four St. Clair hits. “We learned in this tournament that we are as good as any team. We can win this thing next year. Our focus just wasn’t there for every inning.”
Midland North East got off to a fast start, scoring a run in the first inning and four more in the second for a commanding 5-0 advantage. St. Clair contributed to the surge with two costly errors in the second inning and more later in the game.
“We stuck to the game plan,” Midland Northeast coach Chris Haney said. “At this level the key is throwing strikes. Our guy started shaky but he threw more strikes than they did.”
The Midland lead ballooned all of the way to 9-0 before St. Clair finally got on the board.
“When you give a good team like that two or three extra outs in an inning they will make you pay and that’s what they did today,” St. Clair coach Matt Distelrath said. “As high as we were (Monday), once we got down (Tuesday) it was tough to get it back.
“Their pitcher threw a great game. When they got those runs early he slammed the door and took any momentum that we tried to get back away. (On Monday) we had all the big plays that shifted momentum. (On Tuesday), they did.”
Braylen Laverty was the winning pitcher for Midland. He went 5 1/3 innings and struck out nine. He also had two hits, including a two-run home run and three RBI.
Boullard, Hunter Richardson, Braylon Essian and Caleb Achatz each had hits for St. Clair.
“I will remember how far we stayed in it and how good we did,” Richardson said. “We never stopped playing. This will motivate me. We want to build up when we get to 12 to go further than this so we can go to regional.”
That’s music to Distelrath’s ears.
“This is just the infancy stage of their baseball careers,” Distelrath said. “We want to use this as a starting point and not the end point.
“They got a taste of what it is like to play this.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.