Both Portage Northern and Hackett Catholic saw their baseball seasons end Monday as regional play finally reached a conclusion. The Huskies lost the regional #3 final to Grand Ledge 5-1 from Lakeview High School in Battle Creek. The Irish fell in the regional #29 semifinal 3-2 to host Decatur.
GRAND LEDGE 5, PORTAGE NORTHERN 1
Portage Northern nearly grabbed the opening run in the first inning thanks to Noah Hecht’s leadoff single. He made his way to third with two outs and tried to get home on a wild pitch, but he was tagged out on the throw back to the plate. The Huskies would only manage two baserunners over the next four innings as Comet starter Elliott Patten locked in.
“In the postseason, you need some things to go your way, because everybody’s so good,” said Portage Northern coach Chris Andrews. “Things kept falling their way and not ours.”
Grand Ledge got their first run against Husky starter Cameron French in the second inning. Logan Hylek drew a leadoff walk and his courtesy runner Noah Warren would come in via a Devin Gardella RBI double. Another leadoff walk in the third led to a run with Braedon Stoakes scoring from an Aaron West sacrifice fly.
The Comets loaded the bases up in both the fourth and fifth innings, scoring one run in both frames. In the fourth, a pinch hit sacrifice fly by Logan Ashley plated Dom Guzman. In the fifth, Gardella had a RBI single to bring home West. They added one more run in the seventh with Warren scoring on an error.
The Huskies finally built some offensive momentum against Patten in the sixth inning. Parker Brey tallied a one-out single, followed by a Hecht walk. After a strikeout for the second out, French brought in Brey with a RBI double. Jon Wolf then was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Patten found his way out of the jam with a groundout to end the inning.
Portage Northern earned a two-out walk in the seventh to keep faint hope alive, but Patten concluded the game with his fifth strikeout. His complete game victory came with only four hits, one run, and three walks allowed.
“Elliott threw a gem today,” said Grand Ledge coach Patrick O’Keefe. “He was really on.”
Gardella led the Comet offense with three hits and two RBI. For Portage Northern, French allowed four hits and three earned runs over four innings. Tyler Helgeson allowed one run in the next two innings of relief, followed by JP Gonzalez and Nolan McCarthy pitching the seventh.
Portage Northern finishes the season at 28-9-2 and will graduate 12 seniors: JP Gonzalez, Michael Lincoln, Michael Bond, Ben Friedman, Max Beffel, Brayden Speller, Brendan Perry, Noah Hecht, Jon Wolf, Quinlan Lewis, Brian Schreiber, and Griffin McLeod.
“Talent aside, this senior group helped change the culture in our program,” said Andrews. “Amazing young men; selfless, dedicated, they love each other. The leadership those seniors provided will be the toughest thing to replace.”
Even with a large graduating class, the Huskies still have a strong returning squad for next season.
“We expect to start at this level next year,” noted Andrews. “We weren’t at this level when we started this season. It took a lot to get to this point as a team. We hope they we can start here and build. ”
Grand Ledge is into the quarterfinal for the first time since 2008, improving to 34-3. They have a short turnaround, meeting Woodhaven in the quarterfinal Tuesday at 5 p.m. from Chelsea High School.
W- Elliott Patten: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
L- Cameron French: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
DECATUR 3, HACKETT CATHOLIC 2.
Hackett held a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning when their regional semifinal was suspended Saturday due to rain, led by four shutout innings from Joe Carr. Decatur starter Jakob Southworth allowed one hit and one unearned run over his five innings of work.
The layoff led to new pitching when play resumed Monday and the Raiders pounced on the chance, getting two runs and the lead in the bottom of the fifth. The Irish tied the game with a run in the top of the sixth, but Decatur matched in the bottom of the sixth and held on for an one-run victory.
Hackett finishes the year at 26-5-2. They’ll lose four seniors: Keaton Ashby, Cooper Smith, Brenden Warner, and Joe Carr.
Decatur would go on to lose in a tight regional final 3-2 to defending regional champion Lake Michigan Catholic.
W- Payton Ebeling: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB
L- Keaton Ashby: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 K, 1 BB