BRUSLY — It is always an advantage for a team when its starting pitcher knows the opponent he is facing. For Brusly right-hander Austin Reich, he took it one step further.
Having spent his sophomore and junior seasons at Livonia, the senior Reich was now facing his former team on the mound in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. That knowledge, plus a fastball and knuckle curveball, were more than enough for seventh-seeded Brusly to coast to an 11-0 victory in five innings.
“I knew all a lot of these guys from last season,” said Reich after his fourth career playoff appearance. “I didn’t want to beat them, but I had to. I hated to have to pitch to them in the first round, but it’s the playoffs.”
While the season comes to end for Livonia, coach Jason Lan emoine said he was happy his team got the needed experience to potentially make a deeper postseason run next year.
“I can promise you next year that we will be much better,” Lemoine said. “We knew coming that Brusly was a seasoned ball club especially with Reich and our club is super young.”
With the win, the Panthers will have a home game next week against 10th-seeded North Vermilion.
With that second-round matchup in mind, Brusly coach Tait Dupont pulled Reich after the third inning, but not before the Panthers’ starting pitcher struck out four, allowing no runs on two hits.
“He threw great,” Dupont said of Reich. “We hit the ball, so I was able to get some other pitchers some work which is important in the playoffs.”
After allowing two hits in the first inning, Reich retired the next eight hitters he faced before Connor Clouatre came on in relief.
“They want me fresh for North Vermilion,” Reich said. “My team gave me some run support and it felt great.”
Jumping out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, the Brusly bats got to Livonia starter Hunter Savoie with a seven-run inning in the third. The big hit came from Evan Daigle when his triple into the right-field gap cleared the bases to give the Panthers a 10-0 lead.
The offensive explosion was a welcome sight for Dupont after his team failed to score more than two runs in the final three games of the regular season.
“It was big just to get some momentum going,” Dupont said. “We know we have a good hitting ballclub, we just have to come out and play every day.”
Helping Daigle out was Landon Blank with two doubles and a first-inning RBI and Tod Gauthe who went 1-for-3 with an RBI triple in the third off of Savoie.