Bucks come up short in regional

EVART — The game played out just as Shawn Ruppert had envisioned.

Unfortunately, the Pine River baseball coach and his team ended up on the short end of a 2-1 regional semifinal loss to Shelby on Saturday, ending the Bucks’ season at 23-10. Newaygo defeated Shelby in the final, 5-3.

Ruppert expected runs to be hard to come by, with both Pine River and Shelby boasting solid pitching and defense. The Bucks simply didn’t produce enough runs on Saturday.

“(Starting pitcher) Lincoln (Erickson) did a nice job, I can’t fault him,” he said. “I thought we should have scored more runs. We left a couple of runners on ... you’ve just got to find a way to score.”

Pine River’s Grant Gugle said he thought the lineup was making contact, it just couldn’t string together consecutive hits.

“We were hitting it, we just hit it right to them almost every single time,” he said.

With the game remaining scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning, Pine River took the lead, courtesy of an RBI double to right-center by Zane Kanouse to make it 1-0.

The following inning, the Bucks had some trouble in the field, resulting in a pair of costly errors that allowed Shelby to take its first lead of the game at 2-1.

Shelby’s Spencer Peters ripped a double to tie the game at 1-1.

With a runner on third and two outs in the inning, Shelby laid down a bunt that Erickson picked up and fired to first, striking the runner in the back while Kyle McGrew scored for the Tigers.

The runner was called safe, although Ruppert believed he was in the baseline, which would have been considered an out. The umpiring crew determined the Shelby player was outside of the line, calling him safe.

“I thought he was inside the line,” Ruppert said. “They said he was outside. But you’ve got to make a better throw than that (to first).”

Ruppert said the errors in the sixth inning were frustrating after his team had been nearly flawless throughout the postseason defensively.

“I thought in the sixth inning we weren’t ready on a couple of plays,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I thought that inning we just weren’t ready. We made two errors, they were in the same inning, and it cost us.”

Pine River had a chance to tie the game up in the bottom half of the sixth following a triple by Derrick Waldfogel with one out.

Devin Ruppert then hit a grounder that got Waldfogel caught in a rundown between third and home that killed the Bucks’ rally.

It was a frustrating way to end the season, Gugle said, but not discouraging when considering the future of the program.

“We’ve got our two best pitchers coming back,” he said. “We’re going to be better, bigger and faster next year. We’ll work on that throughout summer baseball and be ready to go at it next year.”

Erickson took the loss for the Bucks. He gave up just two hits, two walks and no earned runs while striking out 11 batters.

The Bucks managed just three hits, led by Kanouse with an RBI double. Waldfogel added a triple while Gugle contributed a hit.