BRIGHTON — Coach Charlie Christner was emphatic in his assessment of Rudy Ramirez’s performance in Monday’s 11-0 win over Walled Lake Northern for the Lakes Conference title.
“He was outstanding today,” Christner said after Ramirez threw a four-hitter and drove in five runs, the last three on a majestic home run to left-center that ended the game due to the mercy rule.
“In your biggest games, your biggest players have to play the best,” Christner said. “Today, Rudy was every bit of that. I thought he was the best player on the field all day.”
The feeling, though, was not totally unanimous.
“I pitched well,” Ramirez said, “but I didn’t do much from the plate except for the home run.”
That likely was little comfort to the Knights, who got a runner as far as third base only once in the game.
The Bulldogs won the Lakes Conference title for the fourth time in five years and will look for their first KLAA title since 2012 on Wednesday, when they travel to Canton to take on the Kensington Conference champion Chiefs, who edged Northville 2-1.
At the onset, it didn’t look like the Lakes final would be a blowout.
Northern starter Jake Haver was baffling the Bulldogs with a pitch that broke like a curve.
“He was throwing that slider, slurve, I don’t know what to call it,” Ramirez said. “It was breaking differently.”
Haver retired the first seven Brighton hitters in order, then gave up a single to Sam Williamson. The next hitter, Kyle Hook, then gave Brighton the only runs it would need with a two-run homer to left.
“I knew he was throwing cutters to lefties on the first pitch,” Hook said. “I was sitting on it and I got my pitch.”
Austin Ford reached on an error and Trevor Hopman doubled to put runners on second and third, and Ramirez sent them home with a single. Cameron Tullar ended the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
“Their pitcher did a good job those first two innings keeping us off balance;,” coach Charlie Christner said. “We were trying to figure something out, and Kyle figured it out for us. So he got us going and we were able to keep it going.”
The Bulldogs added three in the fifth before putting the game away in the sixth.
It was the 16th win in a row for the Bulldogs, now 22-3 on the season.
“Today was probably the most all-around game we’ve played all year,” Christner said. “We had really good at-bats, real good defense, and the pitching today was real good. In all phases of baseball, I couldn’t have asked for more, from high school kids, especially.”
The Bulldogs posed with the conference championship trophy, as a team and with teammates and family members.
The association title is next, but Ramirez said the Bulldogs are looking for another piece of hardware that has so far eluded them.
“It’s always nice to win a conference,” he said. “Coach Charlie has some wins under his belt, but he’s always been looking for that state ring. The whole team wants to go deep in the states, to go to East Lansing. I mean, it’s always nice to win a conference, but states are where it’s at.”