Division 1 Team Of The Week: Week 4 - Bay City Western

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Michigan Senior Writer

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Division 1 Team Of The Week: Week 4 - Bay City Western

AUBURN - And then there were two … unbeaten Division 1 baseball teams in the state of Michigan. Bay City Western and defending national champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s stand alone as the only D1 squads without a loss heading into this week’s action.

Sweeps of Midland and Midland Dow leaves Western, the Prep Baseball Report Division 1 Team of the Week, at 16-0 on the campaign.

“Our pitching has been really solid,” explained veteran head coach Tim McDonald, who earlier this year picked up his 800th career win. “With league games on Mondays and Thursdays you need four starters and we were hoping that would be one of our strengths.”

It definitely was last week in 6-0 and 1-0 shutouts of Midland to open the week, with 4-1 and 11-4 triumphs over Dow following on Thursday.

“All four of our starters were almost dominant,” noted McDonald, whose team is ranked fourth in  Michigan in the PBR Power 25 ratings.

Ben Kochany, a Saginaw Valley commit ranked 43rd among senior right-handed pitchers in Michigan, tossed a four-hit shutout in the game one victory with Luke LaCourse, the fourth-rated sophomore RHP in the state, doing the same in game two.

“They were both really effective,” McDonald said of Kochany, who threw 74 pitches, and LaCourse, who needed just 76 in the complete game performance against a team that knocked Western out out of the tournament a year ago.

“They’ve won or shared our league three years in a row so they’ve earned our respect,” McDonald said. “We’ve had some battles with them. Lane Kloha is going to Central Michigan and beat us in last year’s district finals. We scored in the first inning and were able to chase him in the third inning to set the tone for the rest of the day.”

An infield single by Ryker DeCaire, an error, a Miles Yurgaites’ sac bunt and an infield hit by Jack Berthiaume in the bottom of the seventh produced the lone run of the nightcap.

“We executed when we needed it,” McDonald pointed out about the walk-off victory for the fourth-ranked D1 team in Michigan.

Cole Schmidt, a senior signed with Mott Community College, threw a three-hitter giving up a first-inning unearned run in the initial contest with Midland Dow three days after beating Midland and Brayden Simmon, the sixth-rated sophomore left-handed pitcher in Michigan, permitted a pair of earned runs in 6.1 innings on the mound in the second game to earn victories for the Warriors.

“We have been solid defensively and had timely hitting,” noted McDonald. “That’s one of the things we hoped would come together. We’ve played good fundamental baseball.”

Kochany is now 5-0 on the season with a 0.35 ERA, striking out 28 and walking seven in 20 innings. LaCourse is 2-0 with a pair of saves, fanning 26 and giving up just three free passes in 17 frames while not allowing an earned run. Schmidt stands 3-0 with 18 Ks and 10 base on balls in 17.2 innings with a 2.37 ERA, a number inflated by one “bad” inning according to McDonald. Simmon is 2-0 with a 1.68 ERA, setting down 28 on strikes in 16.2 frames while surrendering seven walks. On the season Western has a team ERA of 1.17.

“That goes a long way toward winning games, that, and we’re strong defensively,” McDonald explained. “We don’t have any D-I signees, but a strength of this team is we’re getting contributions from a ton of guys, plus the guys are versatile. It’s been fun. Whatever lineup we throw out there has done the job.”

Cleanup hitter DeCaire, the 14th-rated 2023 first baseman in Michigan, is batting a team-high .629 with 19 RBIs while Kochany, who plays shortstop when not pitching, is averaging .545 out of the three-hole with 17 RBIs.

Left-handed hitting leadoff batter Aidan Robinson, the 22nd-ranked junior outfielder in the state, is hitting .375 with five triples, four doubles, 24 runs scored and 11 walks while also playing center field. Sophomore Jack Sequin, a utility player, carries a .429 average after coming up with two clutch hits versus Dow. Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Sequin had a pinch hit two-run single in the first game to make it 4-1 before breaking open game two with a two-out hit while the Warriors were holding onto a 6-2 lead.

Games with Davidson on Wednesday (moved from Monday due to weather) and Bay City Central on Thursday are on tap this week with Mount Pleasant and Flint Powers tough contests ahead next week.

“We have a challenging schedule coming up,” McDonald said.”Our league is really deep, but I think this group is pretty grounded. We try not to get too far ahead of ourselves.”