The intention Sunday at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek was to play 21 innings of baseball and determine the regional 3 champion. There were 21 innings played, but that was just in the two incredible semifinal games, with the championship moved to Monday due to rain.
The first game saw a 4-2 Portage Northern victory over Brighton after nine innings. Game two was a 3-2 Grand Ledge win against Gull Lake after 12 innings. Due to rain and deteriorating field conditions, the Huskies and Comets will battle Monday at 3 p.m. in the regional final from Lakeview, which can be heard live via JoeInsider.com.
Portage Northern 4, Brighton 2 (nine innings)
This game actually had the first two at-bats on Saturday prior to heavy rains moving everything back a day. Portage Northern’s Noah Hecht drew a lead-off walk, followed by an infield single from Tyler Helgeson. As a result, play began Sunday morning with runners at the corners and no outs in the first inning. An error to start the day brought home Hecht, with a Greg Lapetina sacrifice fly scoring Helgeson for an early 2-0 Husky lead.
Brighton matched in the bottom of the second inning, scoring two runs with three hits. From there, it became a pitching duel between Brighton’s Cameron Tullar and Portage Northern’s Michael Lincoln. Tullar wouldn’t allow another baserunner until the seventh inning.
The Bulldogs had numerous opportunities, but Lincoln was able to pitch out of three sticky situations. In the fifth, he allowed a hit batsmen and single to start the inning. A two-out single sent the runner home for the lead, but Hecht gunned him down from center field for the final out of the inning, keeping the tie intact. In the seventh and eighth innings, Brighton loaded the bases up, but Lincoln escaped unscathed both times.
The Huskies finally broke through offensively, starting off the ninth inning with a walk, hit batsmen, and single. Lincoln had a RBI single to score courtesy runner Xander Morris for the lead. Gannon Andrews brought in Lapetina on a sacrifice fly against reliever Rudy Ramirez for the 4-2 advantage. Cameron French pitched the final inning in relief to seal the Portage Northern win.
The Huskies improve to 28-9-2 with the win. Brighton finishes at 28-13. You can listen to Portage Northern versus Grand Ledge in Monday’s regional final via JoeInsider.com.
W- Michael Lincoln: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 K, 5 BB
L- Cameron Tullar: 8.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 7 K, 33 BB
S- Cam French: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 K
Grand Ledge 3, Gull Lake 2 (12 innings)
It seemed unlikely that the second game could match the excitement of the opener, but the Comets and Blue Devils delivered an absolute classic with a thrilling Grand Ledge win and a heartbreaking Gull Lake loss.
The game was a pitching duel early between Gull Lake’s Luke Scoles and Grand Ledge’s Braedon Stoakes. The Blue Devils got their first baserunner in the fourth inning on a leadoff Justin Mansager single. Back-to-back fielding errors from the middle infield brought Mansager home for the first run and only run until the bottom of the seventh inning.
Down to their last out, Grand Ledge drew back-to-back walks and forced Scoles off the mound in favor of Jack Blesch due to the pitch count rule. Blesch would get the final out, but two wild pitches during the at-bat allowed Noah Warren to score the tying run and force extras. Scoles finished with 6.2 innings, four hits, one earned run, and 10 strikeouts.
Stoakes came off the mound to begin extras, going seven innings with one hit, one unearned run and nine strikeouts. Against reliever Payton Wieber, Gull Lake got a hit-by-pitch with two outs to Jacob Allen, followed by a RBI double to reclaim the lead by Gavin Griffin. Stoakes returned to the mound for a strikeout to conclude the top of the eighth.
In the bottom of the frame, Aaron West opened with a single and stole a base for the Comets. Cal Johnston brought him home to tie the game 2-2 after eight innings of play. West would get on again in the tenth, putting runners at the corners for Grand Ledge. However, Griffin was able to pitch out of the jam and keep the game even.
Gull Lake had a chance in the 11th inning with back-to-back walks with one out against Johnston. During the next at-bat, Johnston appealed to the umpire that the mound was unusable, as it had withered since rain started around the ninth inning. The ump agreed and there was about a five-minute delay repairing the mound, Once ready, Johnston drew a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning.
In the top of the 12th, Stoakes opened the inning with a walk. A bunt moved him to second and West brought him home on a single for the 3-2 lead. West was the offensive MVP for Grand Ledge, finishing with four hits, one RBI, one run, and three stolen bases.
However, the Blue Devils were able to get two walks and a hit batsmen to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the 12th against reliever Logan Hylek. He struck out the next batter, followed by a return to the mound for Stoakes, who was still three pitches shy of the pitch count limit.
He ultimately threw one pitch to Gavin Griffin. After that pitch, Stoakes tossed to third and caught Jacob Gleason in a rundown between third and home. Stoakes fittingly made the final tag before Gleason could slide into home, getting the final out and victory. Despite his stellar start, Stoakes ends up credited with a save.
The Blue Devils finish at 30-10, although the future is bright with only four seniors graduating. Grand Ledge improves to 33-3 and meets Portage Northern in Monday’s regional final at 3 p.m., which can be heard via JoeInsider.com.
W- Cal Johnston: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 2 BB
L- Gavin Griffin: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 2 BB
S- Braedon Stoakes: 7.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 10 K
(At Stevensville Lakeshore)
Host Stevensville Lakeshore defeated Sturgis 6-1 in the semifinals before knocking off Marshall 2-0 in the finals.
Against No. 13-ranked Sturgis, the 12th-ranked Lancers produced 11 hits and used a three-run second inning to pull ahead for good. Brecken Stewart started for the Trojans and went five innings, scattering 11 hits and getting tagged for four earned runs with four strikeouts. Drew Murphy worked the sixth and seventh without giving up a hit.
Both teams scored a run in the first inning, and that was all the Trojans could muster off four hits. Jake Abbs had a pair of singles, while Stewart and Korbin Whitcomb (double) had one apiece. Stewart drove in the team’s lone run.
Sturgis ended the season with a 24-7 record. Lakeshore moves on to play Grand Rapids West Catholic Tuesday in the state quarterfinals at Hope College.
Schoolcraft 6, Buchanan 4 (semifinals)
The Eagles rallied from a three-run deficit after the first inning and tied the game at 3-3 in the fourth frame. Buchanan pulled ahead with a run in the bottom of the fourth, but Schoolcraft would plate a run in the fifth and two more in the seventh to advance to the finals.
Mark Shaink threw four innings with four hits and three earned runs allowed to go with a pair of strikeouts. Alex Thole worked the final three innings and gave up two hits and struck out two.
Shaink and Austin Edwards led the team with two hits apiece, and Dalton Adams tripled, Garret Davis, Thole, Dawson Shearer, Jack Hunt and Steven Schultz singled. Schultz drove in a team-high three runs, and Davis and Hunt both produced 1 RBI.
Schoolcraft 15, Coloma 0 (championship)
The Eagles improved to 19-11 Sunday and earned a spot in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals against Montague at Davenport University in Grand Rapids. And it was all but over two innings into the contest.
Schoolcraft scored three runs in the first inning and eight more in the second en route to a three-inning affair.
Thole got all the offensive support he would need and then some after allowing just one hit. A lot of that support was from his own bat as Thole singled three times and drove in four runs. Connor Nutt (one triple) and Shaink both finished with two hits, and Hunt, Schultz and Edwards (triple) recorded one each. Nutt finished with 4 RBI, Edwards had 3, and Adams, Shaink, Hunt and Schultz all drove in a run.
(At Muskegon Catholic Central)
Fowler 3, Climax-Scotts 1 (semifinals)
Zach Tullis started for the Panthers and had a no-hitter going with two outs in the seventh inning. No. 4-ranked Fowler’s lone hit of the game, combined with three unearned runs on three Panther errors, turned out to be the difference. Climax-Scotts, which finished the season 21-6 and Southern Central Athletic Association West Division Co-Champ, scored its run in the sixth inning on a double by Dylan Butler. Nathan Vickery, who singled, scored on the play.
Muskegon Catholic Central defeated Fowler 7-4 in the finals and will take on Beal City in Tuesday’s state quarterfinal game at Rockford.
St. Joseph Lake Michigan 8, Colon 0 (semifinals)
No statistical information was reported.
Decatur vs. Kalamazoo Hackett (semifinals, postponed until Monday)