In Play with Tom Markowski

Bay City Western escapes district tournament, leans on seniors for more success

Baseball   | Tom Markowski

Bay City Western escapes district tournament, leans on seniors for more success

Auburn – It’s never easy for Bay City Western to advance to the regionals.

This season had its own hurdles to climb as Mount Pleasant, a finalist in Division 2 last season, moved up to Division 1 and was placed in the district with Western held at Midland. Western and the other teams in the district, all from the Saginaw Valley Association, did receive a break when Saginaw Heritage, another Saginaw Valley team, was moved out to make room for Mount Pleasant.

The district draw had Mount Pleasant playing Western in a pre-district forcing the winner of that game to win three games to advance. Western defeated Mount Pleasant, 7-3, in that game and then defeated Midland Dow, 7-1, in a district semifinal setting up a showdown with Midland in the final.

Western took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning before Midland loaded the bases with no outs. Western coach Tim McDonald brought in his ace, Jason Clark, to close the door. Clark walked the first batter he faced on four pitches to tie the score at 2-2. Clark retired the next batters in order to send the game into extra innings.

Midland had runners on the corners with one out in the eighth and once again Clark worked his way out of that jam.

In the 10th Clark singled and scored the winning run on Brady Leppek’s triple.

“This team just finds ways to win,” McDonald said. “They willed that one.”

Western (35-3) will play another team from the Saginaw Valley, Lapeer, in a regional semifinal at Saginaw Valley State on Saturday. Heritage likely awaits the winner in the final.

Western reached the regionals semifinals last season and lost to Flushing.

Western won the Division 1 title in 2013 and ’14.

This team is better, at least on paper. The Warriors have seven seniors in the starting lineup and four of those are three-year starters.

Clark is 7-1 and one of McDonald’s best players. Clark signed with Saginaw Valley State.

Brandon Wise is another right-hander and his record is 6-1. He was the No. 3 pitcher as a sophomore and has been a solid No. 2 the past two seasons. He also signed with Saginaw Valley State.

A surprise to most, but perhaps not McDonald, is Cody Freed, a 6-3 junior right-hander. Freed is 8-0 with a 0.36 ERA. He closed out the Saginaw Valley championship by pitching the final four innings against Mount Pleasant and he’s only given up two earned runs.

Sophomore centerfielder Logan Lacourse moved into the leadoff spot a few weeks ago and McDonald said Lacourse has provided some quality at bats there. Lacourse is also 6-0 on the mound.

“But it’s our top four seniors who have provided the leadership,” McDonald said. “They know what I’m thinking before I think it.”

The other two McDonald spoke of are outfielder Hunter Davis and second baseman Tyler Snover.