Brendan Baker hadn’t been called upon for pitching duty for the Grand Ledge baseball team prior to this spring.
The senior infielder’s number has been called to step on the mound a few times this season and has answered the challenge each time.
And Baker did just that again Monday for the Comets.
Baker pitched five-plus innings of scoreless relief as Grand Ledge punched its ticket to the Dean Shippey Capital Diamond Classic championship game with a 10-4 victory over DeWitt at Cooley Law School Stadium.
The victory sends Grand Ledge (30-4) to Wednesday’s final against Holt where it will try to capture a third straight Diamond Classic title, seventh in eight years and 26th overall.
“It’s definitely a bittersweet moment,” Baker said of a chance for the Comets, who were eliminated from the state tournament by Holt on Saturday, to end their season on a high note Wednesday.
“You never want (your season) to be over and you want to keep pushing and do whatever you can to help your team get the win.”
Baker did that Monday with his arm and also plated a couple runs on a squeeze during a big seventh inning where the Comets broke the game open.
But Baker’s contributions on the mound were most vital. DeWitt had capitalized on four walks while scoring four runs over the opening two innings. But Baker focused on attacking the strike zone. And the results were exactly what Grand Ledge was looking for and coach Pat O’Keefe said Baker “put us on his back.”
“I pitched a lot growing up and then getting to varsity I didn’t,” Baker said. “This is my first year on varsity that I’ve actually started to throw a little bit. When I get in I just take every opportunity I can to help my team.”
The Comets scored 10 unanswered runs after falling behind 4-0. Grand Ledge took advantage of a few DeWitt miscues, including an error with two outs in the fifth that led to the tying runs scoring. Cal Johnston then delivered an RBI double to left field that gave the Comets their first lead.
“I was just looking to put the ball in play,” Johnston said of his go-ahead hit. “You got to do what you’ve got to do in that situation.”
Grand Ledge scored five in the seventh with Sam Davison, Xavier Farr and Baker each driving in runs. That cushion was needed for the Comets, who forced DeWitt to strand the bases loaded to end the game.
Will Nagel said mental mistakes were among the things that hurt DeWitt in the semifinal loss. And he knows the Panthers will have to limit those as they aim to continue their state tournament run beyond Saturday’s Division 2 regional.
“One game that we lose gets us out of the tournament,” Nagel said. “I think everyone understands, even the young guys understand now, that losing means that’s it and you’re done for the year and you move on to travel baseball. I think we understand what we’ve got to do to win. Coming out on Saturday against Eaton Rapids in the regional, we’re going to come out with a little bang and I think we’re going to play some good baseball.”