BRIGHTON — The matchup itself, uncharacteristically, didn’t mean much in the standings for the Brighton and Hartland baseball teams on Wednesday.
But both teams came away with things to build on after the doubleheader on a near-perfect May afternoon.
Brighton showed grit and resolve in a sixth inning rally that gave them a 2-1 win in the opener, while Hartland got a lights-out pitching performance from Brendan Tome in a 12-2 romp in the nightcap.
The final KLAA standings won’t be set until after the final makeup games are played on Thursday, but for the first time in a long time, neither Hartland nor Brighton were in contention for the Gold Division title, which was won by Howell after the Highlanders salvaged a split with Livonia Stevenson on Wednesday.
Hartland will finish fourth, with Brighton can tie Novi for fifth with a win at Livonia Franklin today.
After next week’s crossover games, both teams will turn their attention to the state tournament, and both saw good things over the course of the two games.
“I’m very pleased with the pitching and overall, defensively the way we played<” Hartland coach Brian Morrison said. “We held them to four runs overall in two games, and to nitpick that, we might have walked too many people, or hit them (with pitches). We gave up a couple key hits in that first game, but overall I’m extremely pleased with the way we played defense and, especially, pitched.”
Leading the way were a pair of sophomores. Gage Delanoy shut Brighton out for five innings, matching zeroes with Bulldogs ace Cameron Tullar. Hartland’s only run game in the fourth, when Tommy Lappin’s fly to right field was dropped by Zach Hopman, who aggravated a knee injury on the play and could not throw the ball.
By the time center fielder Jack Krause ran over and retrieved the ball, Lappin was between second and third and scored.
In the sixth, leading 1-0, Morrison opted to bring in senior Max Hendricks, the ace of his pitching staff. Hendricks, Hartland’s shortstop, and Delanoy exchanged positions.
“Gage had thrown the most pitches he’d thrown his year,” Morrison said. “I wanted to keep his confidence up, I thought he had done a good job and I wanted to go to someone else and build off that.”
With one out, Brighton’s Kyle Hook doubled the opposite way down the left-field line and Tullar sent him home with a double to the gap between left and center field. Tullar then went to third on a passed ball and scored the winning run when Hopman hit into a fielder’s choice.
Tullar finished a complete game with a flourish, striking out 10, including five of the last six.
In the second game, Hartland took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Bulldogs scored twice with just one hit off Tome, who got a key tip from assistant coach Aaron Bell.
“He told me my elbow was leading and I was on top of the ball,” Tome recalled. “I was throwing too sidearm.”
Tome made an adjustment and shut down the Bulldogs into the seventh, retiring 13 in a row at one point.
Meanwhile, the Eagles scored in every inning and Tome was a big part of that, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
“In the second game, we didn’t throw enough strikes,” Brighton coach Charlie Christner said. “And when we did, they hit it. I’m giving them a lot of credit for that.”
Tome exited with one out in the seventh and runners on first and second in favor of Hendricks, who immediately got Rudy Ramirez to hit into a double play to end the game. Hendricks also scored three runs and homered for the Eagles.
“It’s something to build on, for sure,” Morrison said. “We’re going to walk out of here and play whomever we play next week. Play some games from here on out and try to be ready to go.”
For Brighton, today’s makeup game at Livonia Franklin might be the tonic to help the Bulldogs forget the nightcap.
“We’ll move on and go to the next game and next week as we build to the state tournament,” Christner said.