Pine River baseball team whips Mesick to win own invitational

LEROY — The Pine River baseball team has had some good teams with good records in the past, but coach Shawn Ruppert wasn’t exactly sure if his squad was battled tested when it came to the postseason.

That is why he loaded up the schedule this year.

The Bucks have faced Chippewa Hills and Traverse City West this season, not to mention a tough doubleheader with Beal City.

That is why even though Pine River has reached the .500 mark on the year after winning its own invitational Saturday, Ruppert is feeling confident as the end of the season nears.

The Bucks reached the .500 mark after a 14-2 five-inning contest in the championship contest against Mesick. Pine River knocked off St. Louis 6-2 in the tournament opener.

“This is the toughest schedule we have ever had to start the season,” Ruppert said. “I think we will be ready at the end of the season.”

What helped the Bucks on Saturday was the ability to send four different pitchers out to the mound. Devin Ruppert pitched the complete game in the first contest, striking out nine batters and scattering five hits.

Lincoln Erickson, Derrick Waldfogel and Tyler Lewis combined for the five-inning victory in the second contest.

“A lot of teams get into tournament and don’t have enough arms,” Ruppert said. “We didn’t pitch Skyler (Nelson) and a couple of others because we didn’t have to.”

Pine River busted the title game open from the first inning, plating five runs and never looked back. Nelson had three hits and Waldfogel had three RBI in the game.

Garrett Long chipped in a pair of RBIs, while Erickson and Garrett Gugle had RBI singles. Lewis had an RBI double.

“We want to be peaking at the end of the season, swinging at good pitches and building for districts,” Shawn Ruppert said.

The Bucks managed just five hits in the first game — one each by Long,

Mitch McDonald, Lewis, Gugle and Waldfogel.

“We want to be more consistent at the plate and we have seen tough pitchers and tough teams,” he said. “The last couple of weeks, we’ve been able to get some runs because the hits are coming at the right time.”

Though Pine River is just a couple of weeks away from the postseason,

Ruppert still tinkering with the line-up.

“I’m still trying to see where everyone can play, we’re pretty versatile,” he said.