GLADWIN — Shelby knew it faced a tough opponent last Wednesday in the regional semifinals, having to go against #7-ranked Beaverton. It would take a near-perfect game to win.
The Tigers didn’t have that top-level performance, letting things get away from them in a six-run Beavers’ second inning that led to an 18-1 loss in five innings. The Beavers went on to win the regional title over Evart Saturday before falling in the quarterfinal game to Gladstone.
The game was briefly delayed, and moved to Gladwin from its original site in Beaverton, due to rain earlier in the day.
Shelby (12-18) appeared to have a winning formula in the first inning and was tied at one when it was over. Although the Beavers had scored a run on a couple of seeing-eye singles off starting pitcher Simon Payne, Nick Felt’s leadoff single and advancement to third on a throwing error, followed by a sacrifice fly by Matt Felt, had Shelby confident it could play with the highly-touted Beavers.
Then the second inning happened. The Tigers made four errors, the Beavers got five hits, and suddenly things got out of control.
“It seemed like in some of the early innings, we gave them that extra out, four or five outs,” Shelby coach Brian Wright said. “And you can’t give this team four and five outs. They hit it from 1 to 9 (in the order). They had a couple of strikeouts, but they just played better. Today, they were the better team.”
Payne induced a popout to lead off the second, followed by an infield single, a bunt single and an error to advance both runners to scoring position. Even after another error brought in the go-ahead run for the Beavers, Payne got a fielder’s choice groundout, and Shelby was one out away from going to the bottom of the second down only one.
However, a wild pitch scored another run, and then Beaverton’s Jarrett Inscho laced a run-scoring double to left field. Then came a walk, a single and two more runs coming across on another error, and suddenly Payne, through little fault of his own, was taken off the mound down 6-1. Matt Felt came on and surrendered an RBI single before getting out of it, but by then Shelby was in deep trouble.
“We’re disappointed in the outcome, we are, because we were confident coming over that we could play with them,” Wright said. “They were better than we were, and we didn’t play like we needed to play.”
It didn’t help that Shelby’s last baserunner came in the second. Logan Michalko singled to right field with one out in that frame, and after that, the Beavers retired the final 11 Shelby batters.
Beaverton added three more runs in the third inning, the first on two sacrifice bunts, the second on a pair of wild pitches and the last on a ringing double to left by Beaverton star Lucas Schweinsberg. Then the Beavers pushed three more across in the fourth, two on a single by David Krohn and another on an error, putting them in position to shorten the game by mercy rule.
They did so with a flourish, scoring five more times in the fifth, taking advantage of two more errors, to make the bottom half of the inning a formality.
Despite the unfortunate ending to the season, though, Wright said he wasn’t going to dwell on the regional semi, choosing to focus instead on his team’s late surge that earned it a district title the previous weekend.
“This isn’t how we’re going to think about how we ended the season,” Wright said. “The run we made at the end, losing all those close games (early) and kept believing, we played three great games in the districts...That’s what I’m going to take away from this.
“They stayed on course, and that’s hard sometimes for high school kids, losing nine one-run games, to keep believing. As a team we kept preaching, something good’s going to happen, and it did: A district championship.”