SITM: Bragg Eastin and Ryan Bartkowiak dominate 2015 Flint/Saginaw/Bay City HS baseball All-Star game

By Adam Biggers/@AdamBiggers81

The crowd knew it. The pitcher knew it. But most of all, Michigan Seminary’s Bragg Eastin knew that he had just ripped a shot that changed the course of the game. 

“I saw it coming in, and as soon as I swung, I knew it was good and I just started running,” said Eastin, whose two-run double in the fourth and late RBI-triple pushed Team North to a 6-4 win Wednesday over Team South at Dow Diamond in Midland.

With the game tied 2-2, Eastin’s crowd-pleasing knock to the corner of right field put the wheels in motion for Team South, which trailed 1-0 after an RBI from Linden’s Austin Buerkel in the first inning. Mounting a comeback would take focus and energy on the part of everyone, however, facing a star-studded pitching staff and solid defensive grouping didn’t faze Eastin that much.

By the sound of it, he may have had a little extra help in the box.

“It was a lot of fun when I was at the plate,” said Eastin, who’s slated to play collegiately at Davis & Elkins in West Virginia. “I knew guys were on base and I just started praying, ‘come on, please let me hit this ball,’ and I roped it.

For a second, I thought it was over (OF caught ball), then it (the ball) started to drop and I started sprinting as hard as I could,” later adding: “It felt great. I was just thanking God that I could get a hit. I’ve been dry the last two weeks, but I started roping them tonight and it felt great.”

Two hits, three RBI and a run scored at an All-Star Game—not a bad way to end a high school career. But Eastin wasn’t the only one showing off in front of a crowd of nearly 600, as Freeland's Matt Formsma, Team North’s center fielder, made the defensive play of the game by robbing Flushing’s Mitch Albert of a sure double in the fifth inning.

With men on base.

“It was definitely a good catch,” Eastin marveled. “It was over his shoulder, and it’s a hard play to make—I’m surprised he did.”

Ryan Bartkowiak, decked out in a 1980s-White-Sox-inspired Grand Blanc “throwback,” finished his prep career by going 4-for-4 with three singles, a double, a stolen base and a run scored. Needless to say, he was Team South’s unanimous MVP.

“It was a great feeling—I exceeded even my own expectations,” said Bartkowiak, proudly gripping his two-foot-tall MVP trophy. “With all of the fans here, all of the cheering, with all of the yelling—it was competitive. “

If not for a couple of defensive errors across the board and a base-running error by Bartkowiak, which he quickly referenced after the game, the fate of the Flint-area All-Stars could have been different—and it will be different, he says.

The first strike has landed, now it’s time for Genesee County to counter.

“I didn’t know if was going to be, ‘come out here, have a good time and whatever,’ but we wanted to come out and win for our area,” said Bartkowiak, who'll play this fall at Mott College in Flint. “When we were up early, we really showed (Team North) what we could do… We showed that we (Flint-area players) can play with the best. Years down the road, we’re going to take some of these games.”

The MVPs were good and all;.. but what about Formsma's Top-10-worthy catch...

“Oh my God…yes!” he exclaimed. “I couldn’t believe it. He caught the thing by his ankles—I didn’t even know… he was just running and scooped it. He caught it somehow. It was a nice catch. It takes a good athlete to do that, and it was awesome.”

“When you bring players like all of us together, you’re going to see cool plays. It’s awesome to be a part of that.”

Quick Recap: Team South jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, but Team North followed with a run to tie it up heading into the second. Eastin’s two-run double in the fourth gave South a 4-2 lead. His late RBI-triple sealed the 6-4 victory.

MVP: Eastin (North), Bartkowiak (South)

Play of the game: Formsma’s highway robbery of Albert in the fifth. 

PHOTOS

Note: These are just a few that I took. I'll post an album as soon as possible, which could be as late as this weekend (July 17-19). Mike Tews of the Bruin Club took hundreds--he's actually a real photographer with a real camera.