Baseball semis: Puckett’s two-hitter lifts De La Salle
East Lansing — Sophomore right-hander Nino Puckett ran into some problems Thursday in Warren De La Salle’s Division 1 state baseball semifinal matchup against Traverse City West.
But despite struggling in the first, second and fourth innings, Puckett kept his composure, leading De La Salle to a 3-1 victory and into Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. final against Saline.
Puckett entered postseason 2-5 with an ERA just under 3.00.
Against Traverse City West (41-3), he allowed two hits, struck out three but walked seven. He was lifted after allowing a leadoff walk in the seventh.
“The key was just trying to throw strikes,” Puckett said. “I couldn’t find it early, but I let my teammates help me.
“I think I found it later in the (final) innings. It was about getting ahead in the count, then using my slider for a strikeout pitch.”
The defense for De La Salle (27-13) backed up Puckett, too.
Sophomore left fielder Ben Hyndman made a diving catch in the first inning to end one threat, and Puckett struck out batters to end threats in the second and fourth.
Sophomore Easton Sikorski replaced Puckett and retired three straight to earn the save.
Center fielder Jake Badalamenti came through offensively for De La Salle, with a single in the second and a two-out, two-run single in the fourth that proved to be the winner.
“It was a 2-2 count and a fastball right down the middle and I just did what I had to do,” Badalamenti said of the liner to center that scored Rob Zurawski and Mike Karam.
“It feels awesome.”
Said De La Salle sixth-year coach Matt Cook: “Jake doesn’t shy away from a moment. All playoff long he’s been phenomenal for us, both with his defense and at the plate, running bases.”
Still, Traverse City West coach Matt Bocian felt confident his team would find a way to come back.
“We trailed in every game throughout the playoffs, so I had faith in the seventh inning that we’d come back, but it just wasn’t our day,” Bocian said.
“(Puckett) was pretty effective since he only gave up two hits.
“We did get some base runners with him being wild at times, but we couldn’t capitalize by getting the big hits.”
Linden 5, Dearborn Divine Child 2: Nick Koan had a two-run single in the three-run third, helping Linden take advantage of a walk, two hit batters and an error in its semifinal win.
Divine Child (27-16) took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning on consecutive singles by Danny Blade and Zac Krauss with Blade scoring on Frankie Lucska's sacrifice fly. Divine Child added its second run in the fifth with an unearned run.
Lucas Marshall earned the win for Linden (29-9-1), giving up one earned run on five hits and two walks.
Linden will play Holland Christian (35-6), a 4-3 winner over DeWitt, in Saturday’s 9 a.m. championship game.
Senior Mike Mokma earned the win in relief for Holland Christian, retiring all nine batters he faced, including five strikeouts.
All games at Michigan State, East Lansing
All finals Saturday
Warren De La Salle 3, Traverse City West 1
Saline 5, Hartland 3
Final: 11:30 a.m.
Holland Christian 4, DeWitt 3
Linden 5, Dearborn Divine Child 2
Final: 9 a.m.
DIVISION 3 — FRIDAY
Jackson Lumen Christi vs. New Lothrop, 2:30 p.m.
Mason County Central vs. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, 5 p.m.
Final: 5:30 p.m.
DIVISION 4 — FRIDAY
Sterling Heights Parkway vs. Centreville, 9 a.m.
Portland St. Patrick vs. Gaylord St. Mary, 11:30 a.m.
Final: 2:30 p.m.