LANSING — Despite losing two of their top hitters, the Fowlerville baseball team got off to a good start on Monday night.
The Gladiators scored two runs on five hits and certainly gave DeWitt something to consider in a Diamond Classic semifinal at Cooley Law School Stadium.
But, after going down in order in the first, the Panthers sent 11 batters to the plate in the second, scoring six runs and never looking back in a 10-4 win over the Gladiators.
Fowlerville (26-8-2) was playing without coach Matt Hunt and players Wyatt Thomas and Nate Leonard. All three were ejected from Saturday’s district semifinal against Eaton Rapids and were suspended on Monday. They also will not be involved in Saturday’s regional at Eaton Rapids.
“Baseball is a game of momentum,” said Ryan Balaszy, a spokesman for the coaches who ran the team in Hunt’s absence. “We started out with it. But the table turned, as it normally does in baseball, and we couldn’t get it back.”
That was mostly due to the efforts of DeWitt senior Will Nagel, who allowed two runs on five hits in the first inning and just two hits the rest of the way. He also led off the second inning with a base hit.
“We were able to find whatever he was throwing, fastball, curveball, everything like that,” Fowlerville’s Eric Fritz said of the first inning. At one point, the Gladiators had three hits to left field on as many pitches.
“And then he startred to go aggressive on us and beat us down at the plate,” added Fritz, who had two hits off of Nagel. “We hit the ball early, but he figured out how to settle down our lineup.”
Nathan Southgate got off to a strong start, retiring the side in order in the first, but faced nine hitters and got only one out in the second before reliever Nick Semke came on in relief.
Semke, who was 2-0 in short relief, throwing 9 2/3 innings in 10 previous appearances, went the final 4 2/3 innings, keeping the Panthers in check until they broke through for three runs in the sixth to effectively put the game out of reach.
“Nick came in and did his job, as we knew he could,” Balazy said. “But we couldn’t get the bats rolling for him. We were putting it in play, but the hits weren’t falling.”
The Gladiators finally got to Nagel in the seventh, when he walked two batters with two outs. He traded places with shortstop Nolan Knauf, who walked the next three batters, forcing home two runs as rain began to fall.
“We had runners on base, a rainbow going up behind the first base dugout, and things were looking good,” Balazy said. “But we couldn’t get it to fall our way.”
Reliever Christian Reisig struck out Wyatt Daniel to end the threat and the game.
Fritz, the Gladiators’ No. 1 pitcher, was unavailable after pitching in last weekend’s district tournament. He’s likely to get the nod against DeWitt in the rematch on Saturday.
“We’re going to look at this as a learning tool,” he said. “Yeah, we didn’t come out on top, for sure. We were hoping to. But we learned their lineup, their defense, everything they’ve got, and we’re going to use that going into regionals.”