BRIGHTON — Max Hendricks had been well-nigh unhittable for the season and most of Wednesday’s second game of a doubleheader between Hartland and Brighton.
He had allowed three hits in 21 innings, none in the previous 11, before Austin Ford broke the spell with a leadoff hit into the gap in right-center field.
But the speedy Ford was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple, and Hendricks made the most of it, retiring the first 12 Brighton hitters in order.
“He was mixing speeds and keeping us off-balance,” Brighton’s Cameron Tullar said. “The third time around, we got used to it and had a different approach. We got more aggressive.”
Hartland, which lost the first game 6-0, led 2-0 in the fifth when the Bulldogs put two runners on with walks.
But they were stranded, and after Hendricks got the first two outs of the inning, Trevor Hopman singled, stole second and scored on Rudy Ramirez’ single.
Up stepped Tullar, who homered twice on Monday and had two doubles in the opener.
“I was looking for a first-pitch fastball,” Tullar said. “I felt I could make good contact, and it just went.”
The sweep lifted Brighton (11-3 overall, 8-2 KLAA West) into first place, 1 1/2 games ahead of Hartland (11-5 overall), Milford and Howell, all 6-3 in the division.
“We didn’t want to get in that situation with (Tullar),” Hartland coach Brian Morrison said. “We thought we were out of the inning. That (fastball) was the one pitch he threw bad, and in this park, when you get the ball into the air a little bit, at 305 (feet), it’s going to go.”
Morrison felt that Hendricks had thrown a third strike to Hopman that was called a ball. But he didn’t come close to blaming that call for his team’s loss.
“We didn’t get the call, but we didn’t play well enough to get calls or lucky breaks,” Morrison said.
One might argue the point when it came to the first game. Starter Kyle Kletzka struggled through three innings and reliever Drake Wilson did the same, loading the bases in each of the first five innings.
But the Bulldogs rarely took advantage, stranding 11 runners.
“I would be lying if I wasn’t saying I was getting frustrated,” Brighton coach Charlie Christner said. “We had guys all over the place and just could not get that hit or move that runner, whomever it may be.”
Tullar, though, shut down the Eagles, striking out 11 in 5 2/3 innings before hitting the state-mandated pitch count of 105 in the sixth.
“He was mixing his pitches really well,” Hendricks said. “We didn’t know exacty what was coming, but it’s not our job to know that. We have to stick to our approach.”
“And then, on our side, we didn’t throw strikes,” Morrison said. “We put too many guys on, either walking or hitting them, and we put too much pressure on our defense.”
But the Eagles still had a puncher’s chance late, loading the bases in the sixth and seventh innings off Tullar and reliever Joe Salvato, but never breaking through.
“If you run into one or get a double, it’s a whole different game,” Morrison said. “But we weren’t able to do that.”
Ramirez got the win for Brighton in the nightcap, allowing just three hits and striking out five.
“It’s a big thing for us to beat those guys, as it would be if they beat us,” Christner said. “It was a big game for us and a big game for them. But now, it’s just another game that shows up as a box score. We have to go on to the next one and get better against Holly (on Friday).”