PROGRAMMING NOTE: These regional games have been postponed due to Saturday’s rain. The games will still be broadcast live. The new schedule is below:
10 AM: Portage Northern versus Brighton
12:15ish: Gull Lake vs Grand Ledge.
Final: 2:30 PMish
IF FIELD CONDITIONS AT LAKEVIEW ARE STILL TOO POOR PRIOR TO THE FIRST GAME, THEN PLAY WILL BE MOVED TO GRAND LEDGE AND THE FIRST GAME WILL START AT NOON.
Listen live online via JoeInsider.com to the regional #3 baseball tournament at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek. The first semifinal sees Portage Northern against Brighton. The second game has Gull Lake against Grand Ledge. The winners meet in the championship for a trip to the state quarterfinal.
Portage Northern enters Saturday at 27-9-2, ranked 14th in the final coaches association poll and seventh-highest among the teams still left in the Division 1 field. For the Huskies, this is their fifth regional appearance over the last six years. Portage Northern claimed regional titles in 2016 and 2015, earning state runner-up in 2015 and a quarterfinal appearance in 2016.
The Huskies nearly were one-and-done in their district opener at St. Joseph last Tuesday, getting a seventh inning rally for a 10-7 win. Saturday, Portage Northern had stellar pitching and defensive in their 6-2 semifinal win over eighth-ranked Mattawan and their 9-1 championship win versus Portage Central. The Huskies added another strong win between the district and regional rounds Wednesday, defeating Division 4 top-ranked Hackett Catholic 8-3.
Brighton comes in at a 28-12 record, getting into the regional round for the first time since their 2014 quarterfinalist season. For the unranked Bulldogs, they also were taken to the brink in their district opener, getting the lead in the sixth inning for a 3-2 win over Dexter. They ran by Pinckney 11-3 in the district semifinal, then shutout fourth-ranked Howell 3-0 in the final, snapping Howell’s six-year streak of district crowns. Brighton also added non-postseason play to their schedule Tuesday, dropping 6-2 and 1-0 games at Lakeland.
Gull Luke enters Saturday at 30-9, their first regional trip since their 2014 season and final four appearance. It was also their first district title since moving from the Division 2 field into the Division 1 field.
Although they didn’t have a first-round district game, the Blue Devils were also taken to the brink to start the postseason, scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 4-3 walkoff win against Lakeview. Gull Lake later hammered Jackson 10-1 in the district finale and got an 8-0 non-playoff win Wednesday over Delton Kellogg.
Their semifinal opponent Grand Ledge is making their first regional berth since 2013 and last advanced beyond the regional round in 2008. The sixth-ranked Comets come in with the best winning percentage at 34-6. With the top-five ranked teams all eliminated in the district round, Grand Ledge is the highest-rated team left in the Division 1 field.
Unlike their other regional foes, the Comets didn’t have any district scares with wins against Waverly (10-1), Okemos (13-4), and East Lansing (6-2). Grand Ledge also added midweek wins in the Diamond Classic tournament in Lansing, topping Lansing Catholic 3-1 in Monday’s semifinal and beating DeWitt 4-1 in Wednesday’s finale.
The only time any of these four teams met this season was when Gull Lake hosted their SMAC rival on April 17. Portage Northern outraced the Blue Devils 14-12 in game one, with the second game ended after three scoreless innings due to darkness.
Photos by Chris Carpenter.