HOWELL — The high school baseball season in Michigan isn’t a long one, only about 11 weeks if everything works out.
But it’s long enough that everyone has a chance to shine.
For Howell’s Jake Falzone, Wednesday’s doubleheader with Pinckney was that chance.
With Caleb Balgaard sidelined due to injury, Falzone took over in right field and had what, for a lot of players, would be a pretty good season.
He had four hits, including what turned out to be the game-winning home run in the opener, and threw out two runners from right field as the Highlanders swept the Pirates, 3-1 and 10-0.
The wins kept Howell (13-6 overall, 8-3 KLAA West) two games behind first-place Brighton in the West. The Highlanders moved past Milford, which was swept by Brighton, and Hartland, which split with Grand Blanc.
Howell also got strong pitching performances from Ty Weatherly, who threw a two-hit complete game in the opener, and Blake Arnold, who allowed two hits in five scoreless innings in the nightcap.
“Those guys have been pitching really well,” Howell co-coach Jason Ladd said. “It was the third outing for both of them, and they’ve been pitching stronger and stronger.”
In the opener, Pinckney took advantage of some wildness by Weatherly, recording both of its hits and loading the bases after the first three batters.
“I was having trouble locating my fastball,” Weatherly said. “They were probably sitting on the fast ball, and then the off-speed was working well and they sat on that.”
Then, with the bases loaded, Weatherly was called for a balk that brought home a run.
“The (umpire) said I couldn’t use the hybrid stance, where one foot is behind the rubber and the other isn’t on it,” Weatherly said. “I couldn’t use it with runners on base.”
With runners on second and third and no one out, Weatherly then pitched out the jam and allowed only two walks the rest of the way.
“I try to keep my composure,” he said. “Just go out there and throw strikes. That’s what my team needed me to do.”
His Pinckney counterpart, lefty Al Thorington, kept the Pirates in the game throughout, allowing just three hits and two earned runs.
“I threw the kitchen sink at them,” he said. “That was the game plan. I knew I had to come out there and throw my best, because they’re one of the best teams in the state.”
It worked until the third inning. Logan Russo hit a fly ball to right field that Pinckney’s Luke Rendell appeared to lose in the sun. By the time he found it, Russo was sliding into second.
Falzone, who went into the game having gone 2-for-8 on the season, one of those hits a pinch-hit homer the week before at Grand Blanc, then strode to the plate.
“I had two strikes on me,” Falzone said. “I was thinking I have to get the bat on the ball. I can’t strike out.”
Thorington then threw Falzone a fastball.
“That two-seam (fastball) got away from me a little bit there,” Thorington said with a rueful grin.
Sam Weatherly then walked and later scored on a single by Kaeden Palmer to complete the scoring.
Falzone, who also pitches, showed off his arm in each game, throwing out Pinckney’s Drew Cortez at first on a one-hop grounder to the outfield in the opener. In the nightcap, he threw out Dalton Knightley, who was trying to go from first to third.
For Falzone, it was all about staying prepared despite limited at-bats until Wednesday.
“Stay ready, do what I can in practice,” he said. “Get ready, show that I have what it takes and be a help to the team.”
In the nightcap, Howell scored five runs in the first and eventually ended it in the sixth by mercy rule.
Arnold was sharp, walking two and striking out two before yielding to another lefty, Ryan Brennan, who pitched a scoreless sixth.
The pattern was not unfamiliar to first-year Pinckney coach Ryan Rogowski.
“We tend to come out and give up a lot of runs in the second game (of doubleheaders),” he said. “The same routine I’m seeing over and over, and that’s why I’m here, to break that cycle.”
The Pirates (7-9, 3-9) have had their moments this season, including a 2-0 home win over Brighton, one of only two losses the Bulldogs have sustained in league play.