Leon’s single lifts Howell past Brighton in 11, 9-8

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BRIGHTON — There was something for almost everyone Wednesday in the opening game of a baseball doubleheader between Brighton and Howell.

Free admission: Check.

Home runs? Check.

Small ball? Check.

Baserunners? Oh, yeah.

Pitcher’s duel? Well, after a while, but yes.

Dramatic finish? Check.

Brett Chaperon supplied the dramatics, walking to lead off the bottom of the 11th, moving to second on a sacrifice by Nick Rauch and scoring on a one-hop single off the bat of Brandon Leon.

The Highlanders, who had trailed 7-2 at one point, took a 9-8 victory and first place in the KLAA West.

Listen to the final three innings here!

Listen here for the first eight innings!

Here’s the archived broadcast of the suspended game!

“I think the fans got their money’s worth,” Howell co-coach Mike Weatherly joked.

“It was huge because we pulled together,” Leon said. “We were down 7-2 and we came back and hung with them. We beat them. We came back.”

The first 15 runs of the game came in the first five innings. Spencer Ford singled home two runs in the bottom of the first to give the Highlanders a 2-0 lead, but the Bulldogs responded with three in the second and four in the third, the first three coming on a three-run homer by Cameron Tullar to left field.

Both players would play key roles late in the game.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders scored three in the fourth and three more in the fifth to take an 8-7 lead, but David Kauff drove in Donnie Carruthers with the run that tied it at 8-8 in the sixth.

Then the pitchers took over.

Sam Williamson of Brighton and Howell’s Bailey Burton shut their opponents down in the sixth and seventh. Tullar came on in the eighth and Ford in the ninth and baffled hitters until Leon’s heroics in the 11th.

The winning hit came on a looping liner to right field. Brighton’s Donnie Carruthers charged the ball but couldn’t come up with it on the short hop, and Chaperon, running all the way, steamed home with the winning run.

“Once he got that down, I took off,” Chaperon said. “We wanted to end that game. It was taking forever, and we knew that was it, right there.”

It was a taut, if flawed, thriller.

Both starters, Brighton’s David Kauff and Howell’s Sam Weatherly, each walked six and hit a batter. The teams combined for 17 walks and 25 hits.

Neither of the coaches involved were too thrilled with that, but their assessment of the game as a whole was unanimous.

“I thought it was a great game, really competitive,” Weatherly said. “Both teams played their hearts out and I was happy with the way our kids came back.”

“It was a great game, really,” Brighton coach Charlie Christner said. “A lot of things happened early, and it came down to the pitchers in the end.”

Howell (9-4 overall, 5-1 KLAA West) took over first place in the division, a half-game ahead of Brighton (4-1-1 overall and West) and a full game ahead of Hartland after the Eagles swept Milford.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Brighton senior Jerad Dokey said. “But we’re coming along pretty good. We’ve got a young team and we’ll be fine coming up. We’ve still got things to work on, but we’re coming along really well.”

The second game lasted two innings before it was suspended by darkness with Howell leading 2-0 on Caleb Balgaard’s two-run shot in the first. It will be resumed later in the season.