Trojans Fall One Run Short in Diamond Classic

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 8:56 am
By: 
Mark Meyer

Editor’s note: Prior to the start of Monday’s Diamond Classic game, longtime East Lansing High School assistant coach Ed Outslay, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack after having thrown batting practice at the team’s home field next to MacDonald Middle School. Emergency vehicles rushed to the scene and transported Outslay to a local hospital before the team left for the game at MSU’s McLane Stadium. Remembrances to be shared publicly can be sent to publisher@eastlansinginfo.org.

The stage was set Monday evening for a seventh-inning Diamond Classic comeback but the undefeated Pirates of Pewamo-Westphalia shut the door.

With the tying run at second base and the potential game-winning run at first, East Lansing starting pitcher Aiden Rudy had a chance to spoil the performance of his counterpart, P-W’s Brandon Thelen. The latter, however, forced Rudy to pop out to shortstop Ethan Thelen to preserve a 4-3 Pirates’ victory in the opening game of the 58th rendition of this storied tournament.

P-W, now 25-0 and ranked first in the state in Division 3, will play Grand Ledge at 5 p.m. Thursday in a quarterfinal game at Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium.

East Lansing, whose overall record dipped to 13-9-2, is scheduled to return to action at 4 p.m. today in a home game against Waverly at MacDonald Middle School.

“He (Brandon Thelen) settled down and threw a lot of good pitches,” said East Lansing head coach Mark Pendred. “But I knew our guys wouldn’t quit and I was hoping we’d get a chance to tie it. There were some opportunities where we couldn’t get the two-out hit when we needed it.”

East Lansing took its best swings at Thelen in the first two innings. Sophomore catcher Will Knapp led off the home half of the first by lacing a triple over the head of P-W right fielder Austin Stott. The next batter, Trojan senior center fielder Jack Belloli drove in Knapp with the game’s first run on a line out to center. Senior designated hitter Sam Waters put the Trojans ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the second with a two-out run-scoring single that plated Louis Booth.

East Lansing’s lead lasted until two outs in the top of the fourth inning when P-W’s Aaron Bearss drove in two runs with a two-out single to right.

P-W added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Rudy fired a wild pitch that allowed Anthony Pohl to score from third base with the Pirates’ fourth run.

Thelen kept the Trojans from advancing a runner past second base until the bottom of the sixth inning when Rudy reached on Thelen’s fielding error, stole second and reached third on a dropped third strike. After Booth was hit by a pitch, Trojan junior left fielder Benno Staszewski grounded out sharply to second to end the scoring threat.

In the bottom of the seventh, Belloli slapped a two-out single to left to score sophomore Nolan Ballard, and Sam Busch followed with a single to put runners at first and second for Rudy. This time Thelen made sure his team didn’t relinquish the lead.

Thelen allowed six hits, struck out six and hit one batter.

“The ability to throw strikes is a big thing,” Pendred said, “and playing clean defense. Make the routine plays, the plays you need to make every day. Then maybe you pick up a hit that slides through and add a run here or there.”

Rudy allowed nine hits, struck out five, walked three and hit two batters in six and two-third innings of work. Ballard recorded the final out in the seventh when he struck out P-W’s Bearss with two runners on base.

“He (Rudy) left a couple of pitches up but everybody’s going to do that … but if we had to do it all over again, he’d be the guy I’d put out there and we’d go at it,” Pendred said.

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