HOWELL — After six innings of being stymied by Northville right-hander David Dillon, the Howell baseball coaching staff continued to preach patience.
“We kept telling the kids ‘We’re going to break through. We’re going to break through,'” Howell co-coach Mike Weatherly said. “It just took us until the seventh inning to get it done.”
Spencer Ford won it with the bases loaded and one out, hitting a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Brett Chaperon to give the Highlanders a 3-2 victory and their first KLAA baseball championship.
“It’s really surreal,” Ford said. “It’s the first time we won it. It’s a pretty awesome feeling.”
For most of the game, though, it was Northville nurturing an awesome feeling behind Dillon, who shut the Highlanders down, allowing just five hits and no walks in six innings.
“He just mixed his pitches really well,” Ford said. “He had a good curveball and hit his spots. He didn’t have an overpowering fastball, but he just worked down. He knew what to throw in what count.”
“It was a frustrating first six innings and the Dillon kid had a lot to do with that,” Weatherly said. “He did a great job and kept us kind of reaching.”
Dillon allowed only one run, a second-inning homer by Kaeden Powell down the left field line.
The visiting Mustangs had a lot more base runners, but Howell starter Sam Weatherly held them to two runs.
Both came in the second inning, after a leadoff single and four walks. Despite allowing a total of six walks to go with eight strikeouts, Weatherly held off the Mustangs for the rest of his five-inning stint.
“He didn’t have his best stuff today, and it’s a credit to him. He battled,” Mike Weatherly said. “That’s what you’ve got to do. We knew his pitch count was up, and we told him you’ve got to get us through five, and that’s what he did.”
The score stayed 2-1 until the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, Johnny Shields was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a single by Chaperon.
“Johnny got hit and I knew it would come to me a little bit,” Chaperon said. “I had to do my job so someone else could get their job done.”
The next hitter, Bryan Rendell, singled to send Shields home with the tying run.
After a pitching change, Northville then intentionally walked Caleb Balgaard to load the bases, bringing Ford to the plate.
“We got one out, bases loaded, and I was trying to put the barrel of the bat on the ball,”Ford said. “The infield was in and I was trying to hit the ball hard and it worked out for me.”
Chaperon was standing on third base.
“Once he hit that I had a great feeling we were going to win that game,” he said. “Just taking my time, made s ure he caught it, tagged up and that was the game.”
Howell improved to 24-6 with the win, its 11th in a row, while Northville fell to 20-5.
“We’ve got a lot of baseball left to play,” Weatherly said. “We’re proud of the kids and proud of that chamionship.but we’ve got to keep working.”