The way East Ridge junior Max Arlich tells it, this is what he saw coming all season long.
Arlich pitched a complete game — the first of the season for the Raptors ace — to lift them to a 1-0 victory over Rosemount in the baseball Class 4A championship game at CHS Field.
Arlich, who was also East Ridge's first-game starter, came back with a stellar effort Friday, needing just 88 pitches to get 21 outs. He struck out seven and walked two, calling it "my best start of the year. I always envision success."
"And when our team needed it the most," Arlich added.
Arlich showed East Ridge coach Brian Sprout made the right decision when he started off the game with three consecutive strikeouts.
"He was outstanding," Sprout said. "His stuff was there. He threw a few pitches the other day, but he was ready to go and he was ready to attack. I felt pretty good about the decision to bring him back."
East Ridge scratched out the only run it needed in the top of the seventh inning.
Joe Merchlewitz singled to lead off the inning and made it to third base on seldom-seen back-to-back sacrifice bunts.
"That goes back to what we've been saying the last few days, trying to put pressure and make things happen," Sprout said.
East Ridge leadoff man Riley Schwellenbach, a pest for all three tournament games, hit a bloop to center. The outfielder dived but could not come up with the catch. Griffin Johnston, who was in the game as a courtesy runner for Merchlewitz, scored the game's only run with two outs for a 1-0 Raptors lead.
"Obviously, there was pressure on, but I tried not to let the pressure get to me and pretended it was like any other at-bat," Schwellenbach said. "At first when I saw it drop, the umpire was going to call out because 'I saw him scoop it off the ground.' But when I saw the umpire wave, it was just a crazy feeling."
Arlich said after the game the plan all along was to bring him back to start Friday, but Sprout told it a little differently.
"I was the only person that knew until we got on the field," Sprout said. "Nobody else, staff or anyone. I just wanted to make sure everyone was ready to play."
Rosemount, which had scored 12 runs in the semifinals, couldn't muster any attack and went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
Arlich's counterpart, senior Liam Bystol, was nearly as good as Arlich. He cruised through four innings, scattering seven hits and fanning three.
The game was played in a crisp 1 hour, 27 minutes.