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BASEBALL: Mt. Pleasant rolls past Gull Lake and into D-2 title game behind stellar outing from Buczkowski

   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

EAST LANSING – After losing in heartbreaking fashion last season in the division 2 quarterfinals a season ago, the 2014 season has been a redemption tour of sorts for Mt. Pleasant.

And now the Oilers are one win away from completing their redemption tour after they jumped out to an early lead and picked up a 7-1 win over Richland Gull Lake in the Division 2 state semifinals.

Mt. Pleasant now advances to the Division 2 state championship game for the first time since 2008, where the Oilers will face Richmond, which bested DeWitt, 2-1 in the first semifinal of the day on Thursday.

“That’s redemption,” Mt. Pleasant skipper Luke Epple said. “We thought we could be here pretty easily last year and we didn’t execute in the end, we didn’t throw strikes and one double up the alley on top of our mistakes and they paid for it last year. This year, we’ve played much better defense, our pitching has been strong just like last year and you’re seeing some of our young guys swing the bat and hit with men on.

The Oilers (31-8-1) got out to an early 2-0 lead in the first behind a two-RBI double off the bat of Dean Marais, giving Mt. Pleasant an early cushion and all the run support that sophomore starter Hunter Buczkowski would need.

The sophomore was in complete control all day long, limiting Gull Lake to just one run on five hits while striking out four to earn the complete game win.

Buczkowski credited his team’s early run support for helping him settle in early on and the fact that Mt. Pleasant kept the runs coming throughout much of the afternoon, just made his job even easier.

“Pitchers always love run support,” he said. “As soon as we went up two, my nerves kind of settled from before the game and after we kept scoring runs, my nerves kind of settled from there.”

Buczkowski helped his own cause in the fourth inning, when he notched an RBI double to make it 3-0, and the Oilers then pushed their lead to 4-0 after a Joe Genia RBI single later that inning.

The sophomore starter continued to give himself some more run support when he drilled another big double, this time driving in two runs in the top of the fifth to give himself more than enough breathing room extend the lead to 6-0.

Carrying a shutout into the seventh inning, Buczkowski ran into his first trouble of the day as he allowed his first run of the game as Gull Lake got on the board via a Drew Blakely RBI to make it 7-1.

But after loading the bases, and a mound visit, the sophomore ace managed to strikeout the final batter he faced to clinch a berth for the Oilers in the state championship game.

“That seventh inning was the longest inning that I’ve played baseball in, I think, and luckily, it ended just in time” he said. “It’s a great win to be able to take our team back to the state championship game, we haven’t been there in a while, so it’s a great feeling.”