Bedford Wins Two Tight Games to Advance

By Dave Sontag
Associate Writer

It was a contrast of two low-scoring games for Bedford, even though both contests featured brilliant pitching performances.

Hurlers Kyle Kuhr and Jackson Lamb rode diverse styles to victory Saturday at Saline High School in the Division 1 Regional.

No matter the approach, Bedford used the solid mound work and stingy defense to earn its second Regional title in the last three years. The Mules held off Belleville 1-0 to capture the Regional crown after knocking off Taylor Kennedy 3-1 in the semifinal.

“We have had some tight ball games. This senior class has just battled every pitch. We talk all of the time about one pitch, one game at a time,” coach Craig Trychel said. “No matter what the score is, it doesn’t matter until the ball game is over.”

In the title game, Bedford clawed for a run of off sophomore Hunter Cole in the second inning on a one-out infield single by Jon Shepherd. The senior stole second and rambled home on an RBI single by Lucas Mayo. That proved to be enough for pitcher Kyle Kuhr, who only allowed four hits while not walking any Tigers.

Kuhr used a riding fastball and a sharp breaking ball to keep the Tigers’ hitters off balance. Only one Belleville baserunner reached scoring position as Kuhr condensed just 73 pitchers to tame the Tigers.

Belleville reached the final game by beating Edsel Ford 6-2 in its semifinal game.

“I know that I can strike people out, but we have a great defense behind us. I just try to throw strikes,” said Kuhr, who will continue his baseball career at Siena Heights.  

“Kyle pitches to contact and throws strikes. He doesn’t pick up a lot of strikeouts, but if we make the routine play behind him, we will be all right,” Trychel said of his championship pitcher.

Making the routine play was something that Bedford did all day as it only made one error in the two games.

In the semifinal, Kennedy’s ace Nate Farner gave up a run scoring single to Dennis Guss in the third inning to plate Jakob Letson, who started the frame with a single to left. He moved to second on a wild pitch, before Guss knocked him in.

The game remained at 1-0 until catcher Josh Strickland came up big again in the state tournament with a  two-out single to plate two runs in the top of the 7th.

Late game heroics are nothing new for Strickland, who helped beat Monroe in the District qualifier with a two-run double in the bottom of the 7th.

 “It was a big hit, but it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the other guys to get on base,” Strickland said.

Trychel was pleased with Strickland’s late-inning battle at the plate.

“We talked before that at bat that if he throws that curve ball, he should square one up. That’s what he did,” Trychel said.

The two runs were crucial in the last inning for Bedford as Kennedy scored one off of Lamb in its final turn at bat.

Despite the victory over Kennedy, Lamb took a different approach than Kuhr used.  Lamb battled control trouble to keep the Bedford dugout squirming. He doubled Kuhr’s pitch output, with 146 pitches against the Eagles.

Lamb struck out seven, walked seven and gave up just four singles. Flawless defense by the Mules helped the squad strand 10 runners.

“At times, Jackson does have command issues. However, he keeps battling and bulldogging it,” Trychel said.

“We talked to him three innings in a row to see where he was at, and how he was doing. His velocity stayed up, so he was okay.”

Was Trychel worried about Lamb’s pitch count, considering that the hard-throwing right-hander used 142 pitches Monday to beat Saline 1-0 in the District final?

Not really, the veteran coach said.

“Right now, he is where he should be this time of year as he can throw a lot of pitches. He is pretty fluid. He never wants to give that ball up,” Trychel said.

Earlier in the day, Lamb was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball draft. The poised University of Michigan recruit said that his professional baseball career can wait.

“We had a (dollar) number that we were sitting on, and the family and I didn’t think that number made it to what we wanted. There is no reason to rush it,” Lamb said.

The only place where the Mules will rush will be to Michigan State University Tuesday to play in the state quarterfinal game. Bedford, 30-7, will take on 31-6 Howell in a noon start at Michigan. The winner will advance to the Division 1 semifinal Friday in Battle Creek.

Trychel’s 2011 team made it to the state semifinal game before losing. How does this diamond 9 compare to the team two seasons ago?

“Two different teams. This team is a bit reserved – all business,” Trychel said.

 “It is a different personality. Only two of these guys (Lamb and Kuhr) were with that team. I think that this team is enjoying the ride. I hope that they are.”

The Bedford coach is not sure who will start Tuesday’s game against Howell.

 “Not sure,” Trychel quickly said. “We will think about it. Maybe we will split them.”

Kuhr is confident that whoever throws, the Mules will be in solid position to win.

 “The way we are playing defense, it doesn’t matter who we are pitching,” Kuhr said.

After winning four of its five tournament games by five runs, Lamb stated that the tight games could be healthy for Bedford down the stretch.

 “Keeps you young, doesn’t it? Coach doesn’t like it, but maybe it has prepared us for that big game down the road. We have done it before and we can do it again,” Lamb said.

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