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Moving on: Blue Devils stifle Pioneers in regional semifinal – By Calli Newberry

Photo courtesy of Calli Newberry

By Calli Newberry

Richmond’s postseason baseball journey continues after its latest 4-1 victory over the Croswell-Lexington Pioneers last night.

The Pioneers and Blue Devils each recorded six hits on the game, Richmond’s ability to draw walks and execute on the base path made the difference. 

Scoreless through the first two innings, Trey Taylor drew a walk to lead off in the top of the third. Ben Hitzelberger moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt, and a line drive single to center field by Joe Parinello finally sent Taylor home. 

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They told a similar story in the fifth as the Blue Devils strung together a productive series of walks, stolen bases, a couple RBI singles, and a sacrifice fly. 

Those three additional runs would be all they’d need to win the game, thanks to their experienced and well-disciplined defense in the field, which proved important just minutes later.  

Photo courtesy of Calli Newberry

“I just didn’t want to see Townsend with bases loaded. That was my nightmare right there when I saw Townsend warming up,” Richmond head coach Scott Evans said. 

Despite playing on Richmond’s home field, the Pioneers won the coin flip for last at-bat. In the bottom of the fifth, while the Blue Devils led 4-0, Gabriel “Belly” Groppi sent Nolan Moore home on a line drive double to left field. It was now 4-1 with one out and the top of the Cros-Lex lineup at the plate. 

Jett Weeder followed suit, this time with a single to left field, putting runners on first and third. Drew Hosterman, who already had one hit on the game, was up next with Jake Townsend on deck. 

Hosterman flew out to left fielder Jackson Jones, who then made the throw to home plate for the inning-saving double play. Any momentum the Pioneers had from that one-out rally was now gone. 

“We had a couple chances when we were down 4-0 to get a couple guys across and make it a different ballgame,” Cros-Lex head coach Bryce Davis said. “One little decision turns things around like that.” 

Photo courtesy of Calli Newberry

There were plenty reasons for Richmond’s defensive success – Parinello’s steady presence behind the plate, the teamwork of Jones and third baseman Skylar Louwers who together were responsible for six outs, or Hitzelberger’s stealthy pickoff from the mound as he closed the game – but at the helm of it all through 5.2 innings was Hudson Davenport. 

“He’s awesome. He’s a leader for us. When he goes, we go, that’s just how it is,” Evans said of his senior pitcher. “When he’s on the mound, we play faster and there’s less errors…Everyone likes to play behind a guy who plays fast and throws strikes.” 

And he threw plenty of strikes last night as he only walked one batter – which was only his third walk of the season, according to Evans – and recorded five strikeouts, including three straight in the bottom of the second. 

Photo courtesy of Calli Newberry

“They’re good hitters, they came up swinging. We expected that, but at the end of the day, we executed pitches and it worked out in our favor,” Davenport said. “I’ve been big on first pitch strikes, my coaches know that. If you get first-pitch strikes, your walks are going to be down. That’s my goal. Don’t walk a lot of batters and they’re not going to score a lot of runs unless they make contact, so walking is not a part of my game.” 

Fortunately for the Blue Devils, Davenport was able to get the semifinal win with less than 75 pitches, leaving him – and the rest of their pitching staff – available for Saturday’s regional championship against Flint Powers. 

“It’s awesome, especially with these seniors, we’ve been playing together forever. This is what we live for: play baseball and be with our friends,” Davenport said. “It’s an awesome experience and hopefully it stays that way for a little bit.”

The Pioneers finish their season 17-10 with a district title, while Richmond will travel to Saginaw Valley State University Saturday afternoon for the Division 2, Region 30 championship against Flint Powers at 12:30 p.m.

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