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Parkway Christian advances to state baseball final

David Goricki
The Detroit News

East Lansing – Sterling Heights Parkway Christian coach Rich Koch played in a state baseball championship game with Warren Mott back in 2002 and wanted his players to feel what it’s like to play on the ultimate stage.

Well, Koch’s dream is realized and he has senior Andrew Manier to thank for getting the job done.

Manier took the mound for Parkway Christian Friday morning at McLane Stadium and pitched a gem in a 5-1 Division 4 semifinal win over Centreville (28-4).

Manier carried a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning before giving up the run on a pair of singles.  He struck out five, walked two and had 11 ground ball outs to improve to 9-2 and put Parkway Christian (22-11-1) into Saturday’s 2:30 title game against Portland St. Patrick.

“We were the best we could be as a team today, a lot of groundballs to third and short,” said Manier, whose lone losses came against Rochester Adams and Grosse Pointe Liggett which was playing in the Division 3 semifinals Friday evening.

“I really felt great with my pitches. My curveball was working really well, keeping it low and my fastball locating really well too.”

Manier said Parkway Christian was motivated to get to MSU after being ranked in the top 4 a year ago before a 1-0 regional final loss to Novi Franklin Road Christian.

“We had great skill, but didn’t reach our expectation after losing in the regional final,” noted Manier. “We hate the feeling of that loss. I feel the seniors that came back pushed everyone on the team, we pushed ourselves to be better and to be more mentally strong because that’s what you need to be in this game, mentally strong.”

Senior catcher Alex Julio was impressed with Manier.

“This was something memorable for me because I’ve never seen this from anyone I’ve ever caught,” pointed out Julio of Manier. “He was just on today. His off speed was working. He could locate low and he stayed low.”

Manier got the job done at the plate as well, doubling and scoring to set the tempo in a four-run opening inning to chase Centreville starter Coletin Gascho. Manier singled and scored in the seventh.

“We hit the ball very hard today,” Manier said. “I think our intensity and attitude and the willingness to throw down bunts, squeezes everything to sacrifice yourself for the team is the best mentality you can have. I felt we did everything well today.”

Junior outfielder Dominic Gallagher joined Manier with two hits and Julio had an RBI single in the opening inning and also an RBI in the seventh after getting hit by a pitch.

The outcome left Koch thrilled and excited with Saturday’s opportunity.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s what we’ve come to expect from him,” said Koch of Manier. “He goes out there and gives us a great chance to win every game he pitches. Today he was great, had good command of the fastball. He was throwing off speed stuff early in counts for strikes and that’s always key to keeping a good hitting team like Centreville off balance.

“We feel like the last three seasons we’ve had state championship talent, but our message the last three years has always been talent doesn’t win you baseball games. You’ve got to be playing well at the right time and this year fortunately we’re hitting our stride and we’ve been playing our best baseball the last two and a half weeks. As a coach, it’s super gratifying to have things paying off for them like it is.”

Portland St. Patrick 2, Gaylord St. Mary 0

Nathan Lehnert and Travis Moyer combined for a five-hitter to help put St. Patrick (23-7) in the title game.

Lehnert started and worked six innings, giving up the five hits and walking two while striking out two. Moyer closed out the game, allowing one walk.

Dan Mackowiak had an RBI single in the opening inning.  Brandon Scheurer had an RBI single in the fifth.

Josh Nowicki had three hits for St. Mary (37-2-1).

SATURDAY’S BASEBALL FINALS

All games at Michigan State University

Division 1: Warren De La Salle vs. Saline, 11:30 a.m.

Division 2: Holland Christian vs. Linden, 9 a.m.

Division 3: New Lothrop vs. Grosse Pointe Liggett, 5 p.m.

Division 4: Sterling Heights Parkway Christian vs. Portland St. Patrick, 2:30 p.m.