BRIDGMAN — Jared Russell made his debut for Bridgman baseball a memorable one.
In a seventh-inning rally that saw the Bees chip away at a three-run deficit, it was Russell that got the walk-off single that brought in two runs and a 9-8 victory in the first game of Tuesday’s Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red Division home doubleheader against Berrien Springs.
The Bees would go on for the sweep, winning the second game 3-2.
Bridgman (4-2 BCS Red, 12-10) trailed Berrien Springs 8-3 heading into the seventh inning. Henry Branch sparked a rally with a two-run double to cut the gap, and Luke Blesey followed with a single to advance Branch to third.
Russell, who was 0-3 in at-bats at that point, followed and connected on a Clay Bixby pitch down the middle, driving the ball into deep center field and bringing in Branch and Blesey.
“This was the first game Jared has gotten to play all year long and he came through with a base hit in the most crucial moment,” Bridgman coach Justin Hahaj said. “It was a huge moment for him, I’m really proud of him.
“We are a very young team. We are mostly sophomores, and we were nervous coming out of the gate because this is a bit of a rivalry game for some of them. But we settled in.”
Hunter Adams hit a three-run homer to give Bridgman a 3-1 lead over Berrien Springs (1-5, 3-10) in the first inning. Branch used a sacrifice fly to bring in Kristian Dalton and Blesey scored on a throwing error to close the inning with a 5-1 advantage.
Berrien’s Justin Litaker used his own sacrifice fly to bring a run in and Greg Shembarger had an RBI single in the second. The Shamrocks added two runs in the fourth off a wild pitch and another sacrifice fly by Gabe Shembarger to tie the game at five.
Gabe Shembarger helped Berrien take the lead with a two-run double and Sean Carl added to it with his own double.
Bridgman got another key hit in the second game, this time from Griffin Weber, that broke open a two-run game in the fifth.
The Bees held on in the sixth and seventh innings behind defensive plays from Donnie Necas and Nick Boyd, and Branch’s pitching. He closed out the final two frames with two groundouts, two strikeouts and two fly outs.
“We played a little defense,” Hahaj said of the second game. “We made some plays and Henry went in a threw a gem. Without him doing that we were in trouble. Between (Branch) and our defense, we were able to hold on.”
Litaker struggled to find the strike zone, and the Shamrocks’ offense had died away in the second game. Litaker struck out six batters in 5 2/3 innings but walked five. Bixby came in for the sixth inning, striking out one and walking two.
“We made too many mistakes and we walked too many people,” Berrien Springs coach John Donley said. “We gave up too many free bases and we can’t do that. Bridgman is a good program.
“Right now we are struggling. We have a lot of room for growth and we will keep working hard. Hopefully that hard work will pay off and we will be able to finish games.”
Bridgman 9, Berrien Springs 8
WP — Donnie Necas, LP — Clay Bixby
Top hitters — Berrien: Greg Shembarger 2 1b, 2 RBIs; Sean Carl 1b, 2b, RBI; Justin Litaker 2 RBIs; Gabe Shembarger 2b, 2 RBIs. Bridgman: Hunter Adams 1b, HR, 3 RBIs; Henry Branch 1b, 2b, 2 RBIs; Luke Blesey 1b; Jared Russell 1b, 2 RBIs.
Bridgman 3, Berrien Springs 2
WP — Branch, LP — Litaker
Top hitters — Berrien: Litaker 2 1b; Gabe Shembarger 1b, 2 RBIs. Bridgman: Jackson Schmaltz 2 1b, RBI; Griffin Weber 1b, RBI.
Records — Bridgman 4-2 BCS Red, 12-10; Berrien Springs 1-5, 3-10.