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'Never gave up' season

Jacob Armstrong readies for the pitch. Photo by Larry Wright (click for larger version)
June 18, 2014 - Hitters finished their season in the Final Four at McLane Stadium at Michigan State University last Thursday.

They lost the MHSAA Division 1 Baseball State Championship Semifinals with a 6-1 loss against Bay City Western, the defending champion, who ended up winning the crown with a 6-2 win over Grosse Pointe South.

Both teams finished the first inning scoreless before Western scored a total of four runs in the next two innings. They scored one more before Clarkston stopped them from a shutout.

Senior Mitch Smith hit a double to bring in a run at the bottom of the fourth to put the score, 5-1.

"I felt like we got 'wowed' a little bit," said junior DJ Zezula. "We walked out there the first inning and our nerves were just coming out of our bodies.

"We knew Bay City was defending state champs and they would do everything right," he continued. "They would do tricky things to get us off balance. They have been there before and won that game. For us this was new territory - it's no excuse. We just were off balance. We weren't Clarkston Wolves baseball."

Senior Nate Witt also hit a double and pitched for 5.33 innings with one strikeout and 11 hits. Senior Ryan Rea finished the final 1.67 innings with one strikeout.

"Nate, our ace pitcher, was getting knocked around a little bit. We were all in shock a little bit," Zezula added.

The Wolves made it to the semifinals for the first time since 2002 with a 4-1 win over Brighton in the quarterfinals, June 10.

"We were rolling," Zezula added. "It was just like football - everything was working out. Everyone was doing what they were supposed to do. We played error frees. Our defense was stellar. Our pitching was stellar. Our hitting was going long. We were moving along."

Clarkston came out hitting in the first inning with two runs from a double on junior Joe Popp's hit. Senior David Steward was next with a single and one RBI to put the boys into the lead, 3-0.

Steward scored one more run in the fifth inning to put the score 4-1. He was also the winning pitcher with five strikeouts and seven hits in seven innings.

The Wolves finished the season with a 21-13 overall record. Zezula admitted the team started the season a little shaky.

"No one gave up," he pointed out. "That's what I love about Clarkston athletes. We are not content with being mediocre. We are not content with losing. We got together in the middle of the season and said 'guys, we just need to turn this around. We are not happy about losing.'"

Zezula added the turning point was the Flint Tournament, where the boys went 4-0 for the weekend.

He added finishing the season as district and regional champs and making it to the Final Four will help the returners and the newcomers for next spring.

"For the guys returning it will be a lot easier to show the underclassmen how to do it and how to respond in those situations we aren't comfortable like we have been earlier in the post season."

Zezula pointed out it will also help when they make their goals now they have made it.

"Now that we have been there - let's do it again," he said. "It is easier said than done but if we have been there before we know what it takes. We know how many workouts it takes. We know whate we have to do to reach the finals. We will do everything we can to get there."

The team said goodbye to ten seniors - Jacob Armstrong, Adam Klebba, Jacob LaPorte, Nick Morey, Alex Peck, Ryan Rea, Blake Rehahn, Mitch Smith, David Steward and Nate Witt.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007. Follow Clarkston sports on Twitter @CNewsWRSports.
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