HARTLAND — At any level, a baseball game that goes 18 innings is unusual.
But Wednesday’s game between Hartland and Brighton was downright remarkable.
Four hundred and forty-eight pitches into the contest, there was no score. There were fielding gems on both sides, to be sure, and some outstanding pitching performances.
But rallies on both sides had been snuffed time and time again.
John Baker, who had his best outing of the season in relief, pitched 10 innings of 3-hit ball, striking out 14 Bulldogs.
Pitch number 449, off the hand of Brighton reliever Tommy Coughlin, was different.
“It was a fastball, inside. It was the first inside pitch I threw, basically, all night,” he said.
Baker, looking for a fastball, turned and sent it over the fence to give Hartland a 1-0 victory.
“To go 18 innings of high school baseball with neither team giving up a run is pretty crazy,” Hartland coach Brian Morrison said. “There was a lot of good defense played, routine plays as well as great plays, and to keep high school kids focused for that long without a brerak, and to stay into the game and make plays like that, on both sides, was unreal. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The win was the 10th in a row for the Eagles (11-3 overall, 7-2 KLAA West), who moved into second place in the KLAA West.
“You saw the reason why they won the state championship last year, in my mind,” Brighton coach Charlie Christner said. “The guys on the mound they had out there are outstanding, struck us out a lot today which was the difference for us offensively. Defensively and on the mound, we were as good as I could ever ask a high school team to be today.”
They had to be. Hartland’s pitchers racked up 25 strikeouts, while the Bulldogs needed, and got some great defense.
But Brighton pitchers David Kauff, who went the first 10 innings, and reliever Tommy Coughlin worked out of trouble time and time again, including the 10th, when Kauff worked out of a bases-loaded jam.
“It helps a lot,” Coughlin said of his team’s defense. “It keeps the pitch count down and I was able to go farther in the game. It boosts the whole team’s morale.”
The game, which lasted more than four hours, was to be halted in the 18th anyway, the umpired ruled.
Baker made it moot.
“I just saw it was a fastball, I swung at it, and it happened to get out, I guess,” Baker said. “I was just running down the first-base line and I saw (first base coach Aaron) Bell saying, ‘Get out, ball! Get out!’ And then I saw it (go over the fence) as I was rounding first, and I started jogging.”
The game was one inning short of the state record, which is 19.
‘We played ((13) innings against Lakeland last year (in the district final), and that felt like forever,” Hartland starting pitcher Nathan Lohmeier said. “This was crazy. But it feels good to win this game and have a 10-game winning streak.”
Max Hendricks, who struck out five in two innings of relief, got the win for Hartland.
The marathon was the first game of a scheduled doubleheader. Morrison said the second game could be played as soon as Friday.
“It was the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Kauff, who scattered seven hits in 10 innings. “You battle hard, both teams, you struggle, and scrape one across.”