Wednesday’s baseball showdown between Livonia rivals Franklin and Churchill was like the classic 1970 Steven Stills song: And if you can’t play in the game you want, love the game you’re in.
Two days after dropping heart-breaking conference semifinal games, the Patriots and Chargers played a crisp, focused consolation game, with host Franklin prevailing 4-0 thanks to a brilliant mound performance from Alex Hardacre and two-run home runs off the bats of Kevin Davis and Dylan Scholz.
Although the teams would have preferred to have squared off in Wednesday’s KLAA title game, the intensity was high due largely to the proximity and history of the schools.
“I think once the sting wore off Tuesday that they wouldn’t be playing in the championship game, the seniors realized that they’d be getting one more shot at playing a city rival and that got their competitive juices pumping,” said Franklin head coach Matt Fournier.
Hardacre, who will be pitching for Alma College beginning in the fall, was dominant, blanking the Chargers through 6 and 1/3 innings before Corbin Kozlowski was brought in to record the final two outs and earn a save.
Three of the hits Hardacre scattered came off the bat of his longtime friend Jack Schwesing.
“I was locating my fastball well early, my curve felt amazing and my slider was pretty good too,” said Hardacre. “And our defense behind me was really good. They all know I appreciate them.
“I’ve been playing with or against Jack since we were 7, so it’s hard not to smile when I’m pitching against him or he’s pitching against me. I think he was 3-for-3, so he got me for the last time.”
Fournier said he would have loved to see Hardacre throw a complete game, but with two Chargers on base in the top of the seventh and the hard-throwing senior’s pitch count rising, he thought it best to bring in Kozlowski.
“He wanted to finish it and I couldn’t blame him,” Fournier said. “I told him he was at 95 pitches and he said, ‘but I can go to 105’. He’s a warrior, but he understood. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, which I love.”
Goose eggs shattered
The scoreless duel was shattered in the host Patriots’ half of the fourth. Mason Rudy singled with one out before Davis launched a low laser over the left-field fence.
Schwesing, the Churchill left-fielder, made a valiant effort to chase the line drive down, crashing into the fence just as the ball sailed into HomeRunLand.
“I’d been slumping a little bit the past month or so, so the home run was exciting,” Davis said. “I wasn’t sure it went over the fence, so I was running hard into third until coach told me to slow up.
“As hard as I was running, I think it may have been an inside-the-park home run even if it hadn’t gone over the fence.
Two threats, no runs
Churchill loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth when Lucas Brown walked, Schwesing singled and Tyler Mileski was hit by a pitch.
Hardacre escaped the jam by striking out Nolan Swickler and getting Ryan Price to fly out to left field.
The Chargers threatened again in their half of the sixth when Ty Rowe led off with a single and stole second. But Hardacre retired the next three batters.
Scholz provided a pair of insurance runs with a no-doubt tater to left field, bringing home Hardacre, who ripped a lead-off single.
Franklin improved to 25-8 and Churchill slipped to 21-11, according to the KLAAsports.org website.