East Lansing — Ninth hitter Brenden Leonard reached base three times and relief pitcher Joe Collins sent three batters down for Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Thursday night.
The pair combined to play a huge part in a 3-2 victory over Trenton in a Division 2 baseball semifinal at Michigan State’s McLane Baseball Stadium.
Leonard drove in a run and walked twice — his pinch-runner scoring runs after both free passes. That included the winner in the top of the seventh as Matt Moore scored after a Trenton throwing error.
That set the scene for Collins, who relieved starter Ben Joppich and struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh, setting off a celebration as coach Tim MacKinnon and Catholic Central will play for the program’s second state championship and first since 1985.
Catholic Central (27-10) will play Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at 11:30 a.m. Saturday for the title.
In the loss, Trenton junior right-hander Kyle Richey allowed two earned runs in six-plus innings, striking out six. Joppich matched him, earning the win with two earned runs allowed in six innings, striking out three to improve to 9-1 in his senior season.
Gabe Cavazos opened the scoring for Trenton (32-10) with an RBI single in the first inning.
Catholic Central took the lead on a pair of two-out RBI singles, first by Leonard in the second inning to tie, and then by junior Kyle Tepper in the fifth.
Trenton then tied it up on a schoolyard play in the bottom of the fifth. A runner stole second, drawing a throw from the Catholic Central catcher. As Brenden Donovan broke for home, the throw to the plate was high and the game was tied after the junior’s second run scored of the game.
Catholic Central responded in the top of the seventh, as another throwing miscue led to the winning run.
Myles Beale singled Moore to second after Leonard’s walk, and Trenton coach Todd Szalka went to sophomore Micah Ottenbreit to relieve Richey.
Ottenbreit struck out the first batter he faced, and Luke Passinault’s grounder to second base looked like an inning-ending double-play ball.
However, an errant throw after the force out at second allowed Moore to score.
Collins, who also had a hit, took it from there.
All games at McLane Stadium, Michigan State, East Lansing
Rockford 3, Macomb Dakota 2 (8 innings)
Portage Northern 3, Birmingham Brother Rice 0
Final: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Orchard Lake St. Mary's 10, Muskegon Oakridge 0
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 3, Trenton 2
Final: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Pewamo-Westphalia vs. Homer, 9 a.m.
Grosse Pointe Woods vs. Gladstone, 11:30 a.m.
Final: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Petersburg Summerfield vs. Gaylord St. Mary, 2:30 p.m.
Saginaw Nouvel vs. Decatur, 5 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.