Meridian Star

Sports

May 9, 2014

Rivals to square off in playoff matchup

ENTERPRISE — MHSAA Class 5-2A district rivals, Enterprise High School and Union High School, are set to square off in a best-of-three series in the second round of the MHSAA baseball playoffs.

The two teams come into the matchup having split the regular-season series 1-1, with each squad claiming one-run victories.

“I expect a fantastic series,” Union coach Dustin Hamrick said. “I feel like we are two evenly matched teams. (The regular season) was just an absolute battle, and I don’t expect anything different. Both teams won on walk-off hits in the regular season.”

Enterprise coach John Welch echoed Hamrick’s sentiments.

“It’s going to be a good pitching and defensively played series,” Welch said. "It’s good for our kids to play somebody that we’ve played before. They respect this bunch. They know what this team is capable of playing well.”

Union (15-11) enters the series on a four-game winning streak after faltering in its previous four contests.

The Yellowjackets are led by senior pitcher Dustin Bates, who has compiled an 8-3 record with a 0.83 earned run average. Not to be overlooked, the Union offense has tallied four runs or more during its current winning streak.

“Our pitching and defense so far in the playoffs have been really good,” Hamrick said. “Our hitting has gotten better and better. I feel like our guys are confident, and that’s a big part of it.”

Enterprise is led by senior Brady Billelo and junior Garrett Glenn. Billelo boasts a 4-2 pitching record and a 1.58 ERA, to go along with a .355 batting average and a team-high 28 runs scored. Glenn has compiled a 5-1 pitching record and a 1.22 ERA, in addition to leading EHS with 11 doubles and two home runs.  

"(Billelo and Glenn) obviously mean a lot because of what they are able to do on the mound," Welch said. "They are extremely resilient. If things start to go bad, they just keep coming."

Additionally, EHS has received stellar play from senior catcher Jason McCutcheon and junior first baseman Reece Williams.

"Dexter has been tremendous for us all season long," Welch said. "He blocks pitches in the dirt and throws runners out on the base paths. He's a big reason why we have been so successful on the mound this year. Reece has worked really hard to get where he is now. He struggled a bit earlier on at the plate, but he didn't get frustrated and kept working hard. That hard work is really starting to pay off for him now."

The Bulldogs (22-6-1) enter the series with wins in eight of its previous 10 contests, but Welch said his squad must do the little things better in order to come away the series win.

“Playing small ball, we have to bunt the ball a little bit better,” he said. "We also have to play good defensively. We can’t give them anything because they’re top starter (Bates) is not going to give up many runs. We know how well they hit and how well they play on defense. We understand the things that we have to do well.”

The series is set to begin at 7 p.m. Friday at Enterprise, and a raucous crowd will provide a strong showing of fan support on each side alike.

“There’s going to be great crowds,” Hamrick said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I think it will feel like a college baseball playoff atmosphere. Both fans are great, and are really passionate about these kids. It should be an intense atmosphere.”

Added Welch, “There’s going to be a lot of people at all these games. Union has great fans, and they travel well. And our fans are going to continue to come out and support us. It’s going to be emotional and loud, and that’s why you play.”

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