Holt, Williamston advance to Diamond Classic semifinals

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Williamston defeated Okemos behind a thrilling seventh-inning comeback and Holt toppled defending-champion Olivet in an exciting night of quarterfinal action at the 62nd Annual Dean Shippey Capital Diamond Classic on Thursday.

The day began with the resumption of a suspended game from Monday night between Holt and Portland St. Patrick. The Rams led 8-2 in the fourth inning Monday when play was halted due to rain. Holt pitcher Mitchell DuBois continued to quiet the Shamrock bats when play resumed Thursday and Holt finished off a 9-2 victory to advance to the quarterfinal against Olivet later in the evening.

In the first quarterfinal game of the night, Williamston battled Okemos. The Wolves received a first-round bye in the tournament while the Hornets had beaten Portland 5-4 in eight innings on Monday.

The Wolves raced out to a 4-0 lead after two innings but Williamston began to claw back in the third inning when Carter Gulick launched a two-run home run to right field. It is believed to be the first out-of-the-park home run hit at the Diamond Classic since the event moved to McLane Stadium on Michigan State’s campus.

“Normally, if we were playing on a high school field, I would’ve known that was gone,” said Gulick. “But I didn’t know here, and once I saw it over I was just like so excited and so hyped for it.”

Heading into the top of the seventh inning, Okemos was still clinging to a 4-3 lead. After a lead-off walk, the Wolves brought in shortstop Caleb Bonemer, a hard-throwing senior who is projected as an early round pick in this summer’s MLB Draft, to try to close the game out.

The Hornets continued to battle, however, and after tying the game on an RBI single by Ben Convey, Aiden Friess came up with the bases loaded and delivered a three-run triple to help Williamston pull away.

“It was electric man,” Friess said while trying to describe the feeling of the big hit. “I can’t even describe it. My heart is still pounding.”

“I was at a loss of words,” added Gulick. “I didn’t know what to say. It was so exciting to see because [Friess] is going to GRCC with me so we’re going to be roommates there and he’s been one of my best friends my whole childhood.”

Okemos scored twice in the bottom of the seventh but Williamston ultimately hung on for a thrilling 8-6 win. After the game, head coach Ryan Orr explained what he told his team heading into the seventh.

“Be productive and pass the bat to the next guy,” he said. “Take a deep breath. Take it one pitch at a time and just believe in each other because we’re not going to win the game with just one person.”

In the nightcap, Holt never trailed in a well-rounded 4-1 win over Olivet, which won this event last year.

A trio of Rams’ pitchers — Luke Redd, Jacob Metzger and DuBois — combined to shut down the Eagles offense.

“We’re based in pitching and defense and that’s what we usually pride ourselves on and playing small ball,” said head coach Keith Allen. “Our kids are just gritty and that’s what we preach and that’s what we are.”

DuBois, who threw over 40 pitches in the resumed game earlier in the afternoon, was ready when called upon to close the game out in the sixth and seventh innings. He also had a strong game at the plate, driving in a pair of runs with a single in the third inning.

After tonight’s action, the semifinal matchups are set for the Diamond Classic.

Next Wednesday night, Grand Ledge will play Williamston at 5 p.m. and Holt vs. Dewitt will follow.

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