East Lansing — Grand Blanc won its first state baseball championship Saturday morning, dominating No. 2 Portage Central 8-3 at McLane Stadium in Division 1.
Grand Blanc (33-11) — which was unranked, finished second in the Saginaw Valley League and won its first regional title this month — scored two runs in the top half of the opening inning to set the tempo.
Then, Grand Blanc batted around in the fifth, scoring six to open a comfortable 8-0 cushion, collecting five hits while taking advantage of a walk and two errors.
Freshman third baseman Nathan Fidelino had a key RBI single in the opening inning to get things rolling.
“There was a lot of pressure, I’m just glad I made something happen,” said Fidelino, who was 2-for-4 in the title game after having a single, double, triple and three RBIs in a 9-1 semifinal win over Birmingham Brother Rice on Thursday. “We always start off well in the first inning and we don’t stop. I think that started us off in this game, too, and it got the momentum going.”
Grand Blanc certainly got off to great starts in the two games in the state finals, scoring four runs in the opening inning against Brother Rice with Fidelino collecting a two-run double in the semifinal.
Junior Nate Helms earned the victory, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six in six innings of work to cap an incredible postseason run for Grand Blanc’s pitching staff, which gave up a combined seven runs in seven games.
“We’ve been working hard all year for this, started coming together as a team, this is what we’ve worked for,” said Helms, who improved to 6-2. “It feels so good to win this state championship, but I think we’re already looking forward to the back-to-back next year.”
And, why not, especially since Grand Blanc returns half of its starters from the title game, including Helms and junior shortstop David Lally, a Notre Dame commit who was the winning pitcher in the semifinal.
Helms loved seeing the early runs scored.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous before the game,” Helms said. “As soon as we started putting up runs our confidence goes through the roof.”
So, what was working for Helms?
“Really, everything,” Helms said. “I mean, my curveball was a little off, but my change-up was on point. That was my go-to.”
Helms carried a three-hit shutout into the sixth inning when Portage Central, which was trying to earn its first state title since 2002, scored three times, including a two-run homer by Gavin Brasosky.
LSU-bound shortstop Luke Leto was 1-for-2 in his final game with Portage Central, also walking and stealing three bases.
Grand Blanc’s Jonah Meleski had a hit and stole two bases for Grand Blanc, which won the state basketball title in April.
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