Division 4 Team Of The Week: Week 8 - Rudyard

Bruce Hefflinger and Dylan Hefflinger
PBR Michigan Senior Writer and Editor in Chief/Scout


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Division 4 Team Of The Week: Week 8 - Rudyard

RUDYARD - After losing their first four games of the season, the Bulldogs of Rudyard have been on a roll, capturing eight straight and 12 of 14 to earn the honor of being the Prep Baseball Report Division 4 Team of the Week.

“We purposely loaded our schedule with bigger division teams,” noted Rudyard head coach Billy Mitchell, whose losses at the beginning of the year came to Cheboygan, a once-beaten D-2 team, and Charlvoix, a D-3 team.

But the third-year mentor was confident victories would come.

“It has to do with success in the other sports,” related Mitchell about the recent surge that has his squad 14-6-1 on the season. “These guys have been to the Final Four in basketball (two years ago) and football (this past season). Baseball is the missing piece. They know what it takes to get there.”

Rudyard has yet to lose to another Division 4 team this year, currently with a 9-0-1 record.

“They call themselves rats,” Mitchell said in reference to the term gym rats. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 of the 15 show up before school for optional hitting at 6:30. They’re not afraid to work. Their work ethic really stands out.”

This past week there were four blowout wins, 18-0 and 30-3 over St. Ignace and 17-0, 15-0 over Pickford.

“They did what they had to do,” Mitchell explained. “We came in and hit the ball and our pitchers threw strikes. We did what we had to do to win.”

Over the last six games Rudyard has outscored the opposition 101-4 and is now rated 17th in the state in Division 4.

“It’s just our approach at the plate,” Mitchell said. “If pitchers give us walks we’ll take it. We’re also going crazy on the basepaths. I’ve not given an offensive sign in three weeks, they’re taught this. It’s kids knowing the situation.”

With 25 stolen bases in the two games with Pickford, Rudyard now has 110 on the season.

The pitching was also outstanding this past week with catcher Austin Warner throwing a perfect game in his first chance to get on the mound this season. Another senior, Brett Mayer, threw a shutout against Pickford to improve to 6-0 on the season with 53 strikeouts and 14 walks.

Senior EJ Suggitt, a PBR preseason all-state selection, is a standout according to Mitchell with the Spring Arbor commit tossing a shutout this past week to move to 5-3 on the year. Suggitt, who plays first base in addition to pitcher, leads the team in batting at .532 with two home runs, 19 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

“He’s like another coach on the field,” Mitchell said of the left-handed hitting right-handed throwing Suggitt.

Sophomore Cameron Peterson has also had success on the mound with senior Tate Besteman and sophomores Kallen Lawlor and Landen Mayer relief pitchers.

“They’re throwing strikes,” Mitchell pointed out about what makes his pitchers good. “When you throw strikes and the defense is playing well behind them you have success. When you have five pitchers you can count on in D-4 it really helps.”

Besteman, a 6-9 basketball standout who plays center field, is tied for the team lead in stolen bases with 21 to go along with a .400 average at the plate. Warner is hitting .370 with 21 steals and Peterson, a third baseman who also catches, is at .350.

A pair of sophomores have also been big with left fielder Eli Sprague hitting .370 with 17 RBIs and Aiden Bickle, a shortstop who bats leadoff, averaging .293 with 13 stolen bases.

“We’ve got to take it one day at a time and try to get better,” explained Mitchell, whose team wraps up league play with a DH against Brimley on Wednesday before two games each with Hillman on Thursday and Gaylord on Friday. “Every day we step on the field our goal is to get better at something.”

Pre-district action takes place on Tuesday against Mackinaw City.

“Up until now we’ve had a pitch count of 70,” Mitchell concluded. “We’ve tried to keep the pitch count down to be ready for the end of the year.”

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