Ruppenthal dominates as Brother Rice advances to Division 1 state final
BATTLE CREEK — Matt Rupennthal was dominant.
The offense, while not perfect, did just enough.
And now, the Brother Rice baseball team has a shot at its first state title since 2008 after a 5-0 victory against Howell High in Friday morning’s Division 1 semifinal in Battle Creek.
“It was good. I felt real good out there,” said Ruppenthal, the Warriors’ ace who pitched his third shutout of the 2013 playoffs. “The juices were flowing. It was good to get out here and play a good team game.”
“He was real impressive,” coach Bob Riker said simply. “He’s pitching as well now as he has all year. He had all four pitches working and had great command.”
Facing a team that had scored 52 runs in the postseason, Riker knew limiting chances would be key.
Ruppenthal (9-1) hardly blinked on the mound, working a quick pace while allowing just four hits all afternoon.
He struck out five and did not walk a single batter.
The offense, though, threatened most of the day without cashing in.
Rice loaded the bases in the first inning but came away empty-handed.
Alex Malzone plated the first two runs of the game with a two-RBI double in the bottom of the third.
“That was huge, but again, we should have had more,” said Riker. Rice had a runner thrown out at home and at third base in the inning. “We were way too lackadaisical on the base paths. It wasn’t good at all.”
With Ruppenthal pitching, the Warriors could afford it, this time.
Rice went up 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth on a Freddy Jehle sacrifice fly, and then wrapped up the scoring in the sixth on Randy Righter’s RBI double and Ruppenthal’s RBI single.
“You look at 5-0 and think we dominated, but that wasn’t the case,” Riker said. “The guys are excited (about the final). It’s nice to be part of this.”
Rice (32-8-1) faces Bay City Western (41-2) at 9:30 a.m. in the D-1 championship at C.O. Brown Stadium.
Western beat Sterling Heights Stevenson 2-1 in the other semifinal.
“If we can score early, that would be great,” Riker said of the final. “We need to find ways to put some pressure on them, but pitching will be the key again.”