The first round of any district baseball or softball tournament always makes coaches nervous.
The goal is to play on Saturday, but those who don’t get predistrict byes run the risk of seeing great seasons end long before the weekend comes.
That happened to Brighton last year, when the Bulldogs rolled through the regular season only to lose a pitcher’s duel to Ann Arbor Skyline, 1-0 in nine innings.
This year’s district, at Howell, has Brighton taking on Dexter in a predistrict game at 4:30 p.m.
Brighton (24-10) is taking on a Dreadnaughts team (22-8) that also is playing well.
‘We’ve seen them,” Brighton coach Charlie Christner said. “They have some timely hitting, they have a strike-thrower (on the mound) and they play relatively good defense. Coach (Mike) Penn does a really good job wit his guys, and we’ll have to be sure we’re ready to go.”
Christner says his team is ready to go, too.
“We had a good week of games and practices this week, and we had a good practice (Monday night),” he said. “We’re as ready to go as we’re going to be and as healthy as we’ve been all season.”
Cameron Tullar, the Brighton ace the last two seasons, will likely start, with Rudy Ramirez available if needed after being unable to pitch most of the season as he rehabbed a shoulder injury sustained during the football season.
“That’s going to be the plan,” Christner said, “but we have some other arms we feel good about, also.”
The Bulldogs are hoping to end a string of losses in districts that have left them feeling snakebit.
That, Christner says, is the mental challenge of the state tournament.
“At this time of year, especially, all of the little things wind up being a bigger factor,” he said. “Blocking the ball, moving a runner over, getting the extra base z— any little thing to take advantage of someone else’s mistakes seems to decide a lot of games this late in the year. We feel we’re prepared for those things. It’s time to go out and play.”
The winner takes on Pinckney in Saturday’s first semifinal, followed by Skyline taking on host Howell. The championship game is schedule to start around 2 p.m.
Brighton is the only county team in a predistrict. The rest play on Saturday.