In a ‘good pitching’ duel, Saline breaks St. Mary’s 21-victory streak

ORCHARD LAKE — The longtime baseball maxim that “good pitching beats good hitting” has been studied and debated for as long as the national pastime has been played, for more than a hundred years.

The conventional wisdom appears to be that good pitching usually beats good hitting.

Last Friday afternoon, freshman 6-foot-2, 165-pound righthander Parker Brzustewicz of St. Mary’s Prep (21-0, No. 1 statewide) took the mound against 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior southpaw Liam Yelsma of Saline (12-1, No. 14).

It turned out to be a duel of “good pitching” that beat not-so-good — i.e., not timely — hitting. Saline prevailed, two unearned runs to one unearned run, to snap the Eaglets’ 21-game victory streak this spring and a 48-0 streak stretching back to the last 27 wins from the 2019 state championship season.

Brzustewicz was handed the task as starter in place of fire-balling junior Brock Porter, quarantined by a COVID-19 contact. In 10.2 innings, he had a 0.84 ERA as a result of beating Chelsea (4 innings, 0 runs) and West Bloomfield (5.2 innings, 1 run) a week earlier.

Brzustewicz, relying on a fastball in the mid-to-high 80s, change-ups and curves, threw 80 pitches (58 strikes) in six innings and gave up six hits and struck out 10 batters.

Yelsma, who reportedly has made a commitment to Tennessee, threw 100 pitches (70 strikes) in seven innings, yielding 10 hits — all singles; four infield variety and a bunt — and whiffing five on his mixture of low-80 fastballs and a wicked slider. Neither pitcher issued a base on balls.

Both had their course-changing moments.

Saline scored two runs in the first inning on mishaps by the usually reliable Eaglets’ defense. The lead-off batter reached first base when catcher Coleson Titus couldn’t handle a swing-and-miss third strike in the dirt. Two singles and a ground out resulted in one run for the Hornets.

They scored the second run when center fielder Jake Dresslehouse dropped a line drive that would have been the third out.

Suddenly, Brzustewicz found himself with one out and runners on second and third, with Saline threatening to pile on more damage.

He more than met the challenge, getting one batter swinging for strike three and the other batter called out on strikes.

The Eaglets offense had been the talk of high school baseball in Michigan, even across the country, recognized as fifth-best in the United States, pulverizing opponents, 254 to 31, at a .394 clip.

The not-so-good hitting part of the equation came up in the bottom of the sixth.

Jack Crighton led off with a line drive single to right field. He was forced out at second on Ryan McKay’s ground out. Titus singled to left. Ciaran Caughey, running for McKay, advanced to second base. Both moved up a base on an error by Saline’s left fielder on Titus’ hit.

Jasen Oliver was safe at first on a strike-three passed ball. Caughey scored.

Ryan Mooney beat out a bunt. Titus moved to third and Oliver to second, creating a one-out, bases-loaded situation.

Yelsma put a damper on the Eaglets’ comeback bid. He got Dresselhouse to look at strike one, then got him to swing at a pair of sliders down and away.

Alex Mooney smacked a hard ground ball to the Hornets’ shortstop, who parlayed it into a rally-ending force at third.

In their last chance in the seventh inning, St. Mary’s went down meekly in order via a strike out and two ground balls.

Don’t fret. All is well. In less than 24 hours, the next morning, the Eaglets took out their frustration against Dearborn Divine Child, erupting for 30 hits (including four doubles, seven triples, and a home run) for a 20-8 and 11-0 doubleheader sweep.

Senior Tommy Allman hurled a no-hitter in the shutout, striking out 12 of the 16 batters he faced in the mercy-shortened five-inning contest.

St. Mary’s winds up the CHSL Central Division schedule this week: Wednesday at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, Saturday hosting Warren De La Salle.

They have eight non-league games on tap after that, starting May 11 against Grand Blanc.  

The CHSL championship semifinals will be held May 17 at Comerica Park. The finals will be staged at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica at a date to be announced.

The quest for the biggest prize of all, a repeat Division 2 state championship, will get under way June 1.