Division 3 baseball: Bobcats facing a familiar foe

Published 8:22 am Thursday, May 29, 2014

Brandywine will face arch rival Buchanan in the semifinals Saturday in Coloma. (Leader photo/File)

Brandywine will face arch rival Buchanan in the semifinals Saturday in Coloma. (Leader photo/File)

Brandywine boys baseball coach Dave Sidenbender didn’t hide his emotions after his team edged Bridgman, 3-2, in a 10-inning Division 3 opening round district game on Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be in the semifinals,” said Sidenbender. “I don’t care who we’re playing.”

The victory was special to Sidenbender because 2008 was the last time the Bobcats won a district game. Brandywine advanced to the state semifinals that season.

A familiar opponent awaits the Bobcats. Brandywine (17-7) faces Lakeland Conference rival Buchanan in a district semifinal game Saturday at 10 a.m. at Coloma High School.

On May 20th, the Bobcats split a doubleheader with the Bucks. Buchanan won the opener, 8-4, and Brandywine rallied to win game two, 5-4. The Bobcats, who won the conference title outright with the win in game two, trailed that game 4-0 after three innings.

“We should know them pretty well,” Sidenbender said. “It should be a good game.”

Sidenbender didn’t know after Tuesday’s game who his starting pitcher would be against Buchanan. He has several candidates. Matt Vaughn (6-0, 0.73 ERA) and Cole Searles (2-3, one save, 3.11 ERA) each pitched well against Bridgman. Vaughn pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Bees and allowed two unearned runs, two hits and struck out four. Searles went the rest of the way and allowed no runs and one hit and struck out three.

“Matt pitched well enough to win against Bridgman,” Sidenbender said. “(Searles) has had some hard luck losses against some decent teams.”

Others who could see time on the mound are Chandler Plew (3-1, one save, 2.62 ERA) and Toby Fox (2-0, one save, 2.62 ERA).

All the pitchers will be pretty well rested as the Bobcats will be playing only their fourth game in 11 days when facing the Bucks.

Lack of games might have been the reason Brandywine wasn’t sharp in certain moments against Bridgman. The Bobcats committed an error, which led to two unearned runs, walked four batters (one intentionally) and had two runners throw out at third after singles and a runner picked off first base.

“I thought for the most part we played pretty good defense,” Sidenbender said. “We’ve got to throw strikes and we need to run the bases better. We didn’t run the bases very well. We left a few runs out there for sure.”

Brandywine collected 11 hits against Bridgman with seven different players getting at least one hit.

The Bobcats have had a balanced offense throughout the year. Top Brandywine hitters are Fox (.419, one homer, 11 RBIs), Plew (.418, 13 RBIs), Tanner Bourdon (.359, 13 RBIs), Hunter Janowiak (.357, one homer, 10 RBIs), Kyle Duncan (.357, 12 RBIs) and Searles (.342, one homer, 20 RBIs).

Duncan is the lone senior on this year’s team.

“We’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Sidenbender said. “Staying positive is the best thing for them.”

Coloma and Berrien Springs meet in the second semifinal game around noon. The two semifinal winners play for the district title around 2:30 p.m.

“I think it’s wide open,” Sidenbender said when asked about a district favorite. “(Bridgman pitcher Kyle) Gnodtke and (Berrien Springs pitcher Kyle) Rago are probably the two best pitchers. I think I have four guys that can beat anybody.”