Sophomore stars set up bright future for De La Salle
Warren De La Salle coach Matt Cook sent three sophomores to the mound during the final week of the season during the Pilots’ journey to the Division 1 state championship.
Sophomores normally play for their team’s junior varsity team, building their skills to help them have the chance to contribute on the varsity team during their final two years of competition.
Sophomore left-hander Ben Hyndman pitched well in a 6-1 quarterfinal win over U-D Jesuit Tuesday, then it was sophomore right-hander Nino Puckett’s turn Thursday in a 3-1 semifinal victory over Traverse City West.
Finally, sophomore right-hander Easton Sikorski who kept De La Salle in the state title game Saturday before Puckett came in to close out the game in the seventh, getting a double play with the bases loaded to end the dramatic 7-6 win over Saline.
De La Salle has a chance to be a dynasty with that pitching staff in the years ahead.
“Our top three pitchers are sophomores,” Cook said after the championship game win. “Bryce Bush had the game-winning hit – he’s a sophomore. So our future looks bright, but I’m happy for our seniors right now.”
Bush, a first baseman, was safe on all four plate appearances in the title game, including the winning two-run single through a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the sixth.
Bush hit home runs in each of the regional games, then had three hits in the quarterfinal before his heroics in the championship game.
More than half of De La Salle’s lineup was made up of sophomores, with catcher Mac Graybill, left fielder Hyndman and center fielder Jake Badalamenti also starting.
Badalamenti was the difference in the semifinal win, getting a single in the second, a two-run single in the fourth, then a walk, also making a diving catch to take away an extra-base hit.
In the title game, Badalamenti singled and scored during a four-run second to set the tempo.
“Easton (Sikorski) and Nino (Puckett) had a very good year,” Bush said. “We relied on them all season. They’re the reason we won most of our games this year. I’m feeling very good about our future. Hopefully, we’ll get back here again for another chance (at the title).
“Throughout most of the season we didn’t show that we’re as good as we are, but the past few games we came back to show who we really are, hit the ball well. We fought back and showed what we’re made of (in the title game).”
De La Salle (28-13) didn't play in the Catholic League title game, but the Pilots won the one that mattered most.