Portage Northern punched their ticket to Saturday morning’s Division 1 baseball state championship thanks to Thursday’s 2-0 semifinal victory over Brother Rice. Husky Senior Cam French won the pitcher’s duel against Tyler Sarkisian, as French delivered a three-hit shutout on only 70 pitches.
“He’s had so many (starts) that look just like that, I can’t say that this one was better than any,” said PN head coach Chris Andrews. “But because of the stage he was on, it’s the biggest one.”
Brother Rice leadoff man Tito Flores singled to start the game and was sacrificed to second, but French picked him off to eliminate that threat. The Warriors would only get in scoring position once more in the seventh inning.
“We worked on that play, we knew especially Flores that he would try to steal third,” said Andrews. “It’s a momentum building thing.”
The Huskies were held in check as well by Sarkisian with only one runner making it to second through the first five innings. Portage Northern got the top of the lineup for the sixth inning and Tyler Helgeson bunted the first pitch he saw perfectly down the third base line for a single.
“We knew that was coming, he had to put a bunt down,” said Andrews. “He’s the spark to our lineup, when he gets on base, he scores.
“(Sarkisian) left it up a little bit, fastball down the heart of the plate,” said McCarthy. “I hit it pretty good, it felt great getting that run in to push ahead.”
The Warriors intentionally walked Greg Lapetina with one out, hoping for a double play ball. Lapetina attempted a steal of second, drawing an error on the throw and bringing home McCarthy for the 2-0 lead. Once they got on the board, Portage Northern felt pretty good about their hopes with French dealing on the mound.
“Cam shuts them down every time,” said McCarthy. “We know he’s going to throw strikes and we know they’re not going to hit it.”
“I was just changing speeds with my fastball and my cutter was really working,” said French. “I was getting a lot of guys to swing on it today and then dropping in a couple of curveballs occasionally, they were all working.
Brother Rice got a leadoff single to start the seventh inning, but French coerced three straight flyouts to Helgeson in center to seal the victory, ending the Warriors season at 26-13.
“It’s very easy to relax when Cam is out there,” noted Andrews. “You just sit back and let him do his thing.”
Portage Northern improves to 38-7 and will play in their second-ever baseball championship, as they took runner-up in 2015 after a 10 inning game 2-1 against Hartland. The Huskies will face Rockford (28-9) Saturday morning at 9 a.m. ET for the Division 1 title with the game to be broadcast live via JoeInsider.com.
W- Cam French 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
L- Tyler Sarkisian 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K