East Lansing — Sophomore Brock Olmstead was pleasantly surprised he got the ball from Petersburg Summerfield head coach Travis Pant to take the mound in the biggest game in program history Friday afternoon at McLane Stadium.
After all, Petersburg Summerfield (27-4) was trying to earn its first state semifinal win and Pant also had junior left-hander Derek Clark, who was 12-0 this season with a 0.22 ERA, available.
Pant knew what he was doing and Olmstead responded with a two-hit shutout in Petersburg Summerfield’s 5-0 Division 4 win over Gaylord St. Mary (26-6), which lost in the semifinal for the fourth consecutive year.
Pant also knew how determined Olmstead was after he suffered a 3-2 quarterfinal loss last year to St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic.
“Coming in as a freshman, a lot of people would say ‘You’re a freshman, you’re all right, it’s all good, let it go,’ but I really wanted that one and when I came in with the lead I was confident that I had it, but then walks kind of did me over and the two runs scored,” Olmstead said of last year’s quarterfinal loss.
“I’ve just been thinking about it a lot over the whole year, every time I pitch it’s in the back of my head. I mean it was incredible, the scoreboard was the screensaver on my phone so every time I turned on my phone I got to see it. In every throwing program, I’m thinking I want to get back, I want to get better, come back stronger, throwing harder and having better command so after today I was happy with how it turned out.”
Olmstead should be, after going the seven-inning distance and striking out five while allowing just two hits and one walk to raise his record to 7-1. He entered the game with a 0.76 ERA.
Was Olmstead surprised Pant gave him the nod over Clark to take the mound?
“Just a little,” Olmstead said. “I kind of thought that he was going to put Derek to throw in front of me because we want to get there (to championship game), but I was happy that he trusted me and threw me out there and it worked out good.”
Said Pant: “Brock is as good as anybody at this level and we play good defense behind him. It was special (first semifinal win) and I don’t think it’s hit them yet.
“Now, we’ve got Derek and Decatur has seen him once (1-0 Summerfield win). We haven’t played Saginaw Nouvel. We’re just a heck of a confident team when he’s on the mound. He brings a little bit of swagger so it will be fun to watch him on the big stage.”
Sophomore Ethan Eyler gave Petersburg Summerfield some early momentum, hitting a two-run single in the opening inning.
Eyler wasn’t done there, getting an RBI triple in the two-run third. He was intentionally walked to load the bases in the fifth.
“Our early leads, we’ve been doing that all year,” Eyler said. “In our first regional game we jumped on them (Allen Park Inter-City Baptist) like 15-0 almost in the first inning so it’s important that we get that early lead and then add on and on and on. The top of the order is really coming on and everyone 1-through-9 is a hard out. It’s just a great season and a great team. We’ve only given up about two runs this postseason so this is insane.”
Clark joined Eyler in doing some damage at the plate, lifting his average — which was hard to do since he entered the game with a .494 mark with 52 stolen bases — by reaching safely on a bunt single in the first, hitting an RBI triple over the right-fielder’s head in the third and hitting another single in the fifth.
“It’s very important to jump on people early and that’s been our model all year,” Clark said. “I was just seeing the ball well and trying to use all fields and it felt good.”
Clark can’t wait for the title game, when he takes the mound at 5 Saturday to face Saginaw Nouvel (15-16-1) which enters with a sub-.500 record, but defeated defending champion Beal City 16-2 last Saturday in a Super Regional.
“I’m excited, want the ball, I’m ready to go,” said Clark, a left-hander who throws in the mid-80s. “I’m going to try and get ahead with my fastball and try to hit my spots. I have a curveball, change-up and slider too.”
Saginaw Nouvel 4, Decatur 2
Nouvel batted around during the fifth inning, scoring four runs on six hits to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead.
Brady Alverson had a two-out, two-run double to center field to highlight the four-run fifth and Justin Osmond followed with a two-run single to left. Designated hitter Sam Bartels had two hits for Nouvel.
Jacob Burr went the distance to earn the victory, giving up the two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out four.
Jakob Southworth, who suffered the loss for Decatur (32-7), had two hits and an RBI.
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.
Homer 2, Pewamo-Westphalia 1 (9 innings)
Grosse Pointe Liggett 5, Gladstone 0
Final: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Petersburg Summerfield 5, Gaylord St. Mary 0
Saginaw Nouvel 4, Decatur 2
Final: Saturday, 5 p.m.