LANSING — On a cool, drizzly night, Eric Fritz was on fire for the Fowlerville baseball team.
Fritz, a four-year starting left-handed pitcher, came close to perfection on Tuesday night, allowing one run and one hit to go with an error as Fowlerville trampled Lakewood, 9-0, in a Diamond Classic quarterfinal at Cooley Law School Stadium.
“Trampled” is apt, too, given that the Gladiators stole eight bases and ran the bases aggressively throughout the game.
“We got good reads all night, and that’s what it’s all about on the basepaths,” Fowlerville coach Matt Hunt said. “That’s what we were missing last week, and it’s good to see it come back.”
It was a welcome return to form for a Fowlerville team that started the season 20-1-2 before a slump that saw them lose three of their previous four games.
Fritz was outstanding, getting the Vikings out in order the first four innings and inducing them to hit fly balls and grounders early in the game before getting them out on strikes six times in the last three innings.
“Everything felt on point,” he said. “The team as a whole was able to get the defense behind me to pick up those ground balls and fly balls, and that’s what you want as a pitcher. Being able to get those quick at-bats and ground balls, rather than to have to get strikeouts, was huge.”
At the plate, Fowlerville kept the pressure on Lakewood starter Kyle Willette, who cracked in the fourth inning with a pair of errors. The first came on a wild throw to first while trying to keep Trevor Miller close to the bag.
With Miller on second, Nate Leonard hit a ball back to Willette, whose throw to third in an effort to get Miller was wild, ending up in the bullpen down the left field line.
Fritz and Wyatt Daniel then singled in runs to complete a three-run inning.
The Gladiators offense put runners on base and those runners kept moving.
“That’s our baseball,” said J.T. Maybee, who reached base in all four at-bats (single, fielder’s choice, two errors), and scored twice while stealing four bases. “We thrive in good pitching, good defense and hitting the ball good. That’s how we played.”
After losing the opener last year, the Gladiators were happy to stay alive in the tournament, which is open to Lansing-area teams.
“It’s a good momentum-builder, for sure,” Fritz said. “It’s how you want to get things going, and with the (state) playoffs coming up, you really want the momentum to go our way.”
The win means the Gladiators (24-4-2) will return to Cooley to play either DeWitt or Okemos, who play in another quarterfinal on Thursday. That semifinal game is set for 7 p.m. on June 5.
The Glads, meanwhile, play a doubleheader at Haslett on Thursday and have single game scheduled at Howell on May 31 before district play at Jackson Northwest on June 3.