East Lansing — Colin Czajkowski showed he can do more than pitch on Thursday evening, hitting a two-run homer to help Brownstown Woodhaven to a 7-3 win over Birmingham Brother Rice in a Division 1 state semifinal at McLane Stadium.
Czajkowski, a 6-foot-3 junior, is a Michigan commit as a left-handed pitcher, but he played center field in the semifinal after throwing a 1-0 shutout Tuesday in a quarterfinal win over Grand Ledge.
Czajkowski and 6-4 senior left-hander Drew Szczepaniak (Western Michigan) have anchored a staff to help Woodhaven not only win its first district championship in school history, but be in position to come away with the state championship trophy on Saturday.
Woodhaven (34-5) will face Grosse Pointe South for the right to walk away with the ultimate trophy on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Szczepaniak improved to 10-1 (1.15 ERA), giving up three runs, two earned, on five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He exited, due to the pitch count, after giving up a two-out RBI double to Mac Menard in the seventh. Alonzo Chavez came in to get the final out.
Woodhaven scored a run in the opening inning with Justin Charron, who leads the team with a .450 average, doubling, moving to third on Czajkowski’s single and scoring on a ground out by Szczepaniak.
Brother Rice (31-9) pulled even in the third, taking advantage of Szczepaniak’s wild streak – walk, single, hit batter – getting the run on Reese Trahey’s sacrifice fly.
But, then Czajkowski turned the tide with one swing of the bat, crushing a Jacob Klingensmith pitch 340-feet into the trees over the right field fence for a 3-1 lead with two outs. The runs were unearned as Charron also scored after reaching safely on an error.
“I just got a good pitch to hit, was able to barrel it up and put a good swing on it, definitely a good memory and can’t wait for Saturday,” said Czajkowski who entered the game hitting .388 and was 3-for-4, getting intentionally walked to load the bases in the fifth, then contributing an RBI single to right with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh.
And, Czajkowski will be ready to take the mound in the championship game.
Szczepaniak pitched out of trouble in the fifth when Woodhaven’s defense fell apart. The inning started innocently enough with Szczepaniak retiring the first two hitters, but then a pair of errors followed. Mac Menard struck out, but reached safely on a passed ball to load the bases before JD Allen popped out to third to end the threat.
“That home run by Colin was a huge momentum changer for us and my mindset was like, we have a two run lead, just buckle down and throw strikes and let the defense do the work and that’s what we did,” Szczepaniak.
Woodhaven added a run in the fifth, but it could prove costly. Charron’s second double of the game pushed across the fourth run, but he turned his ankle at second and had to be helped off the field.
Brother Rice escaped further damage in the fifth when Jack Brockhaus came in and struck out Avery Carnicom and Nolan Chilcutt with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Brother Rice pulled within 4-2 in the sixth, but Woodhaven answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by RBI singles by Carsen MacDonell, who replaced Charron, and Czajkowski's RBI single.
All semifinals and finals at MSU
Grosse Pointe South 10, Midland 0
Woodhaven 7, Birmingham Brother Rice 3
Final: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Stevensville Lakeshore 3, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 0 (10 innings)
Saginaw Swan Valley 3, DeWitt 1
Final: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Gladstone vs. Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 2:30
Riverview Gabriel Richard vs. Schoolcraft, 5
Final: Saturday, 5
Gaylord St. Mary vs. Beal City, 9 a.m.
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, 11:30 a.m.
Final: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.