Close games highlight finals at Firemen’s Park

Published 2:32 pm Monday, July 9, 2007

By By TOM NYHUIS / Niles Daily Star
NILES – It was a full weekend of baseball action at Niles Township's Firemen's Park as the 9- and 10-year-old Cal Ripken Michigan State Tournament kept the grounds crew and umpires working hard in the summer heat that reached the 90s on Sunday.
When the championship games were finished it was the 9-year-old Brandywine team taking a 17-9 win over L'Anse Cruse North who traveled to Niles from Chesterfield Township near Mount Pleasant.
The Howard Township All-Stars claimed a come-from-behind 10-8 win in the 10-year-old bracket for the state championship title over Brandywine.
Cole Searles picked up the win on the hill for the 9-year-old Brandywine team. Searles also was 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and a pair of singles. Matt Vaughn doing the catching duties on the sweltering Sunday afternoon picked up six RBIs with 4-of-5 hitting. Vaughn had a triple, two doubles and a single to lead the Brandywine hitting attack.
Brandywine would have two chances to pick up the championship game, but would only need one to move on. Brandywine defeated L'Anse Cruse earlier in the tournament. A win by L'Anse Cruse would have forced a second game.
"We just told the kids at the beginning of the game why come back for another game when it's hot out," Brandywine manager Mike Searles said following the title victory. "Let's try to go out and get it done, have a good time and do the best you can and have fun with it. We just rolled with it, we strive for fun and being positive and the kids feed on it and kept striving forward. The other team kept coming back and they just kept pushing forward."
Brandywine now advances to the regional tournament later this month.
In the 10-year-old bracket it was Brandywine that forced Howard into an extra game to pick up its title.
Brandywine took a 12-3 win in Sunday's opening meeting of the two teams to pit the teams in a final game winner take all. Howard defeated Brandywine on Saturday to remain undefeated in the tournament and set up Sunday's rematch.
Brandywine came out red hot in the championship game with six runs in the top of the first for the early lead. A three-run second by Howard cut the lead in half heading into the third before Brandywine tacked on two more runs in the third for a 8-3 advantage. Howard responded with a four run rally to cut the lead to one, 8-7 in the bottom of the third.
"Our last three games we have been down and have come back and won," Howard manager Troy Meek stated following a pitching mound celebration with his team. "We just wanted to keep their heads up, play hard and it turned out well for us. They kept their heads in it and the hit's started to come around and the pitching did better and the defense picked up. They played great."
That is when Howard's pitching and defense stepped up and shut down the explosive Brandywine offense keeping them scoreless the final three innings.
Tyler Clutter took the mound to hold off the Brandywine bats and then took matters into his hands at the plate in the fifth. Clutter came through with a clutch two-out triple with two runners on the bags with a deep fly to the fence over the right fielder's head.
That gave his team a 10-8 lead and eventual title win.
"Brandywine has a very good team and coaching staff and it's tough to play them," Meek said. Howard will advance to the Cal Ripken Regional Tournament later this month.
J J McIntyre led Brandywine with 2-of-3 hitting with a double and a single. Dennis Jordan was tagged with the loss.