HOWELL — The relief in Brighton baseball coach Charlie Christner’s voice was palpable.
His team had just edged Dexter, 3-2, in a Division 1 pre-district game at Howell High School.
“The first game is always a difficult part of the district,” he said. “No matter when you play. That first game is always the most challenging.”
The Bulldogs proved up to the challenge against the strong pitching of Dexter’s Ryan Schoch, who held them to four hits. But Schoch also hit five Brighton batters (one of whom, Jack Brenner was not allowed to go to first when the umpire determined he did not get out of the way of the pitch) and Dexter committed two errors.
While Schoch was keeping Brighton hitters at bay, Cameron Tullar was doing the same to Dexter. He finished the game by striking out four batters in the seventh (the third hitter reached on an error by catcher Blake Weaver) and striking out 11 on a warm, sunny afternoon.
“I thought (Tullar) was dominant today,” Christner said. “He did a good job commanding the strike zone.”
Both Dexter runs came in the third inning, on a Tullar wild pitch and when Weaver threw the ball into left field trying to throw out Dexter’s David Kreske, who stole third and came home on the error.
Jack Krause had driven in runs for the Bulldogs on singles in the second and again in the fourth to tie the game.
Schoch had his successes with the Bulldogs, striking out nine, but the Bulldogs led off the sixth with singles by Zach Hopman and Mitchell Marvin and Krause was intentionally walked to load the bases.
With one out, Brendan Harrity lifted a fly ball deep enough to centerfield to score Hopman with the winning run.
But the play of the game might have come in the bottom of the sixth. Dexter’s Drew Bielas led off with a single, and the next hitter, Mack Martin hit a line drive to Kyle Hook at shortstop.
Bielas was running on the play, and Hook threw him out trying to get back to first on a close play.
‘Hook made a good play, and our momentum went up,” Tullar said. “It was a bang-bang play, and it transfers to hitting. We did all the stuff we knew we were supposed to do.”
As a reward Brighton will meet Pinckney in Saturday’s first district semifinal at 10 a.m., followes by Howell meeting Ann Arbor Skyline at about noon. The winners play for the district title after the second semifinal concludes.