by Calli Townsend
The St. Clair 12U team had a great first showing in the Little League State tournament on July 17. The Saints defeated Plymouth-Canton 13-2 with consistent hitting and a sharp defense.
“The boys came out and swung the bat. Even our outs were quality at bats,” head coach Matt Distelrath said. “There weren’t a lot of poor swings, even our outs were a lot of hard ground balls or fly balls that we just missed. They had pretty good swings overall today.”
Nearly the entire lineup had at least one hit on the day, combining for a team total of 17. The Saints only had one walk, making each time on base well-earned. This is something Distelrath said the team has been focusing on leading up to the tournament.
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“Obviously to win you’ve gotta score runs, so we spent a lot of time in the batting cage hitting and breaking down our swings and our approaches,” he said. “It’s definitely been a focus since the District tournament.”
Leading this strong group of hitters was Jackson Kemp, who had two home runs, one double, and seven RBI. Graham Parlardg also added a homer, and Jaxon Distelrath and Michael Frantz each chipped in with a double.
“Up and down the lineup again we had good at bats,” Distelrath said. “In the District tournament, I know [Kemp] was getting a little frustrated. He didn’t hit the ball like he had hoped or like he had at different parts of the year, so for him to come out and have good approaches and hit the ball like that was really good to see for him and will hopefully lead to some big things throughout the week.”
St. Clair had five different pitchers on the mound today in an effort to save some arms for later on in the tournament. Distelrath said he managed to only use up one pitcher, leaving a deep roster available for the coming games.
Another advantage the Saints hold is their experience. Their team competed in the State tournament two years ago as 10-year olds, and they’re looking to advance even further in the tournament this year.
“It was Plymouth’s first time ever going to states and the first time their league had ever won Districts, so it was kind of an eye opening experience for them after talking to their coach,” Distelrath said. “It’s only going to get tougher as we move on.”
But his team is prepared for what lies ahead.
“We’ve gone out of our way the last couple of years to play state-level type teams in weekend tournaments so going in they know the level of competition and they believe in each other,” he said. “They feed off each other every wise so when one guy gets a hit it really helps everybody’s confidence.”
That certainly worked well for them today and the Saints will look to carry this momentum on to Sunday’s game against Birmingham at 5:15 p.m. in Grosse Pointe.