Despite the loss, Sugar Beets owner Corky Thompson has built an impressive team filled with former local high school players, who are now playing college baseball, along with plenty of big names from bigger colleges, but keeping the focus on filling the roster with local talent, which is very important for Thompson.
“The local flavor is always going to be something we focus on so that's exciting to see out here,” Thompson said. I think that's a part of what creates the support. And, the one thing about college kids, is they grind, they grind, they grind, and they don't assume. They're always fighting for a spot, always fighting for at bats, and they're always fighting to impress their coaches.”
"They've jelled quickly,” Thompson continued. “Part of that is attributed to coach (Kyle ) Floyd, and they know each other, whether they've competed in high school or competed against each other in college, they see familiar faces, so I think for the first couple of times they've come together, it's fit pretty well. I think it's going to carry us through the season and it's going to be a pretty positive season.”
Former St. Charles standout Billy Blair (a junior RHP at Northwood University) started for the Sugar Beets and ran into some trouble in the top half of the first inning after walking 2-batters, hitting 2-batters, while giving up a single and a double for a 4-0 St. Clair lead in the top of the first inning.
Standish Sterling grad, Sean O'Keefe (a sophomore at Adrian College) recorded the franchise's first hit, a single in the bottom of the first inning, before following up with the first walk in Beets history in the bottom of the third, where he eventually scored the team's first run after he was driven in on the first RBI in Sugar Beets history by Saginaw Heritage grad Noah Marcoux (a sophomore at Davenport University) who scored O'Keefe on an RBI single to cut the St. Clair lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the third inning.
“There were a little bit of nerves,” O'Keefe admitted in his first game. “But coach Floyd has been working on my swing the last couple days and he's got me really confident to play. I was just looking for a fast ball to drive and I got a good swing on it. I was thinking about it a little later in the game, and I said to myself, man, I think I just got the first hit, which was pretty cool.”
Blair managed to settle in over the next couple innings, however, he would give up another 4-runs in the top of the fourth, as St. Clair extended its lead to 8-1 midway through four.
Sugar Beets reliever Matthew Blunk (a senior at Lawrence Tech University) replaced Blair, who was tagged with the loss after giving up 8-runs on 6-hits and 3-walks, while striking out 5-batters through 3 2/3 innings.
The Green Giants added another run in the top of the fifth when New York City native Rodrigo Duluc (a senior at Rice University) led off the inning with a double and scored on a sac fly RBI for a 9-1 St. Clair lead midway through the fifth.
Former Frankenmuth standout Brady Wood (a junior at Adrian College) singled in the sixth then scored when Trenton, MI native Connor Charping (a sophomore at Western Michigan University) drove him in with an RBI-single, cutting the Green Giants' lead to 9-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After St. Clair added another run in the seventh for a 10-2 lead, the Sugar Beets kicked off a 2-out rally when Joliet, IL native Gaosh Williams (a senior at Central Michigan University) reached after being hit by a pitch, while Wood followed with a single, along with another single from Lawrence Tech University junior Sean Fannon, which loaded the bases, before Williams scored when Midland native Ryan Robinette (Lawrence Tech University) reached with a walk to make it a 10-3 game with 2-outs.
Charping followed Robinette with a 2-RBI single to drive in Wood and Fannon, before St. Johns native Adam Proctor (a sophomore at Michigan State University) drove in Robinette to cut the St. Clair lead to 10-6 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Proctor, who has a big league arm and has recently shown up on a lot of MLB scout's 2018 draft radar after becoming the top catcher for the Spartans to finish out his freshman year at MSU, which is impressive, however, Proctor was equally impressed to be playing his first collegiate summer league game at Dow Diamond.
“This is way more than I could have expected for my first summer ball game in college,” Proctor said of playing at Dow Diamond. “Whenever you think of summer ball, you think of it being relaxed, playing on high school fields, it's just really cool playing here, it's a great stadium, it's a great atmosphere.”
Blunk (3.86 ERA) had a nice day in relief for the Beets, giving up 1-run on 4-hits, with 1-strikeout through 2 1/3 innings of relief, while Eric Fritz (a sophomore at Saginaw Valley State University) gave up 1-run on 1-hit throughout a 1/3 of an inning.
Former St. Louis pitcher Marcus Beeson (a sophomore at Siena Heights University) finished out the night for the Beets, giving up 3-runs in the ninth, as the Green Giants increased its lead to 13-6 midway through nine innings. Beeson gave up 3-runs on 2-hits and 3-walks through 2 2/3 innings of relief.
Proctor reached on a 2-out walk in the bottom of the ninth, then was driven in on an RBI-single off the bat of Midland native Z-Michael Westley (a sophomore at SVSU) to cut the St. Clair lead to 13-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Saginaw head coach Kyle Floyd admitted the atmosphere at Dow Diamond may have gotten to his team in the early part of the game tonight, but he was happy to see how they responded to some early adversity and never gave up, coming together as a team, to respond with some runs and battle back.
“The guys came out a little flat, I think they were a little caught up in the moment out here,” Floyd admitted. “But, they settled down and looked really good. In the middle innings, the guys started swinging the bats a little harder. I think with the big crowd out here today, it kind of got to them a little bit early on, but after that I think we played pretty good baseball. I think they've done a really good job of coming together, especially for a first year team, with all of the stuff we're doing, I think that's been really good.”
Charping finished 3 for 3 with 2-RBI's to lead the Sugar Beets' offense, while Westley was 3 for 6 with an RBI, and Wood was 3 for 5 with 2-runs scored.
O'Keefe finished 2 for 5 with a walk and 1-run scored, while Fannon, Marcoux, and Proctor each finished 1 for 2 with 1-RBI apiece respectively, followed by Robinette, who was 1 for 4 with an RBI and 1-run scored to round out the Saginaw offense.
Thompson is happy to have finally gotten his product out on the field for the Sugar Beets baseball fans and he's hoping this will be a nice kick-start to a successful first season of collegiate baseball in Saginaw this summer.
“I think in general, for the people who wanted to come out and see what this product is about here at Dow Diamond, and with the production we've been able to put on here, I think it's been an extremely positive first step for everything we're trying to accomplish.” concluded Thompson.
The Sugar Beets and Green Giants will continue this 3-game series with game-2 at 4:05 pm at Theunissen Stadium on the campus of Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI tomorrow afternoon, before wrapping up the series with 12:05 pm game at SVSU on Thursday afternoon.
St. Clair Green Giants players celebrate after the final out in a 13-7 inaugural win over the Saginaw Sugar Beets at Dow Diamond: