Local Sports Journal

Oakridge cleanup hitter James Abriatis did exactly what he was supposed to do.

The Eagles were down by one run in the seventh and final inning. The bases were loaded with two outs when Abriatis came to the plate.

As Oakridge coach Brandon Barry put it, Abriatis “absolutely smoked the ball” with a line shot that was headed toward right field.

But the Gladstone second baseman snagged it, and the Eagles’ season was suddenly over.

Gladstone claimed the 3-2 victory over Oakridge in the Division 3 state quarterfinals Wednesday at Traverse City West High School.

The Eagles, winners of the West Michigan Conference and district and regional championships, finished the season 22-10-1. Gladstone, 29-4, moves on the state semifinals.

The loss prevented Oakridge from reaching the state “final four” for the fourth consecutive season.

“When (Abriatis) hit the ball we erupted and they were silent,” Barry said. “Then their kid made the play and it was just the opposite.”

Gladstone broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning when Nick Trudeau scored on a wild pitch.

That led to Eagles’ dramatic seventh inning. Hunter Benson delivered a two-out single, Wyatt Hilton reached on an error and D.J. Bowen had an infield hit, loading the bases for Abriatis.

“He was just able to reach up and snag it,” Barry said of the final play. “It just kind of reminded everybody to make the plays when you can. That Gladstone team made more plays than we did. You don’t take anything away from those guys.

“We enjoyed the experience and were one or two runs away from staying alive for a state championship. I thanked the seniors who got us here. It was no fluke. We were conference champs and we played really well through the districts and regionals.”

Wyatt Hilton pitched a complete game for Oakridge, allowing seven hits with five strikeouts.

Hunter Garling started and got the win for Gladstone.