Rudyard Bulldogs Baseball aiming for third straight Final Four in 2024

RUDYARD, Mich. (WJMN) – This spring, the Rudyard Bulldogs baseball team begins their quest for a third consecutive trip downstate to play in the Final Four of the MHSAA Division 4 baseball tournament.

“We return eight starters from last year, so we’re pretty solid,” said Cameron Peterson, first baseman and pitcher for the Bulldogs. “And I think our defense is right there. Our hitting is a little behind, we haven’t faced much live pitching. We’ve played a couple tough teams and we battled right with them. It’s come right down to the last inning, but our defense has been solid. We just need to get our bats going and we should be right there and be able to hang with anybody.”

“Definitely trying to get better every day,” said Tanner Baker, catcher and outfielder for Rudyard. “There’s no slack in practice, just trying to get better every day. Our defense has been at the top, we just need to get the bats rolling and I think we’ll be doing pretty good.”

Despite some recent rainy conditions, the mild winter provided an opportunity to get up and running earlier than a typical year.

“To be outside, we’re taking advantage of it every time we can to be out there,” said Bulldogs Head Coach Billy Mitchell. “To take ground balls off the dirt and take fly balls in the air and play long toss and do all the things that we usually don’t get to do, that we’re just doing during games in the month of April.”

With five seniors and eight returning starters from last year’s team, that experience is something the team can lean on as they work towards their eventual goals.

We had a very good first baseman, and that’s a big hole to fill, but we have people to fill it,” said Baker. “We didn’t lose many seniors, so we have the team that we did last year. So I think we’re in the running for it.”

“They’ve played in a final four for football. They’ve played in the final four for basketball. They played in the final four twice for baseball, so experience is what they have. They know what it takes to get there and the big moment doesn’t doesn’t scare them. I mean, they’re not afraid of being in the big moment and playing in those big games. They like it. We just played Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart down at Central Michigan Stadium, and they weren’t scared. They went and played the game because they knew they could.”

As the season gets into full swing, they’re viewing a late-season run not only as a goal, but as the standard.

“Just consistency,” said Peterson. “You know, being pretty good every time we step on the field. Every time we step in the batter’s box, being the best we can and the scoreboard will take care of itself as long as we play the game. Especially being a senior, you want one last run, you know? It kind of means more than everything else. So, that’s the final goal. The final goal at the end is to make that third final four for three straight years.”

“At the start of the year, we purposely make our schedule tough, like it is, just to go out and compete and get ready for Districts,” said Mitchell. “We know that’s the ultimate goal – to be peaking and playing our best when it comes to Districts. Our regular season is our regular season record. Last year, we were four games under .500 heading into Districts and we made it to Michigan State, so we were playing our best baseball when we needed to and we played tough teams to get us ready to do that. So, that’s the same thing we’re trying to do this year. The standard at Rudyard Baseball is to try to get to the final four every year. That’s the goal. It was before I got here, and it will be after I leave. It’s just something that we do and it’s something that we strive for, and if we make it, great. If we don’t, then we know we have to work harder the next year to try to make it happen. But that’s the goal every year.”

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