Pine River baseball claims regional championship

Pine River: Lincoln Erickson fires a pitch to the plate against Kent City. (Herald Review/John Raffel)
Pine River: Lincoln Erickson fires a pitch to the plate against Kent City. (Herald Review/John Raffel)

HOLTON — Pitching did the trick for Pine River again on Saturday.

Lincoln Erickson pitched a full seven innings in the opener over Kent City while Devin Ruppert went the first 4 2/3 innings and Erickson  finished up for the save in the title game against Montague.

The results were a pair of 3-0 victories for the Bucks. Pine River played Tuesday at Michigan State University in the quarterfinals against Grandville Calvin Christian.

“I knew they wouldn’t be scoring a lot of runs off of us if Devon and Lincoln are throwing well,” said Pine River coach Shawn Ruppert. ”They’ve been doing it all year.  I thought we’d score a little more and I thought they’d score one or two runs. Hey, our defense was good today.”

“We always knew we’d have good pitching and would be good in the field,” said Devon Ruppert. “We  were worried about our bats because we had a bunch of young guys coming up. The young guys were stepping up tonight more than our seniors did. They pulled through.”

In the first game, Pine River, in the second inning, scored when Luke Harris had a leadoff single, stole second went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Mitch McDonald’s single.

In the fifth, Ruppert still had a shutout but when Montague put a runner on base, Erickson came in to go the rest of the way, Ruppert went back to his catching position and McDonald, who was behind the plate, went to play center field.

“That’s our best team,” Shawn Ruppert said. “Devin is our best catcher and Mitch is our best centerfielder. Lincoln is as good as Devin on the mound. Those three up the middle, that’s our best. At that point, I decided if we were going to be beat it would be against our best.”

In the sixth, Harris doubled Joe Gingrich to third base and Gingrich would score on Brandon Hoaglund’s sacrifice fly. Harris scored on a delayed double steal.

Ruppert struck out three and allowed three hits. Erickson allowed two hits and no walks while fanning four.

Montague, which had defeated Morley Stanwood 4-0, ended its season at 23-7.

In the opener against Kent City, Hoaglund had an RBI hit in the second inning. Erickson had an RBI double the top of the fifth. Tyler Lewis scored the third run later a throwing error.

Erickson went seven innings and allowed one hit while fanning 13 batters. Erickson, McDonald, Skyler Nelson, Ruppert, Harris and Hoaglund had the hits for the Bucks.

“Harris had got some big hits today and so did Brandon Haglund,” Ruppert said. “We hit the ball hard but hit it right at them. The bottom of the order helped us.”

Pine River takes a 24-5 record to the regionals.

Kent City’s season ended at 15-9.

Erickson “did a great job,” said Kent City coach Derek Larson. “He threw hard and changed things up. He had us offbalance and had us guessing.”