Portage Northern began their District 9 day from Mattawan at 10 a.m. against St. Joseph. It wasn’t until around 7:30 p.m. that they were finished thanks to storm delays. However, it was worth the wait for the Huskies as they secured the title with a 9-1 win in the championship over Mattawan. Portage Northern beat the Bears 11-2 in the earlier semifinal with the Wildcats knocking out Portage Central 10-1 in their semi.
The second-ranked Huskies came out firing with four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Nolan McCarthy’s two-run home run. The Bears were able to get two back in the bottom half on a two-RBI double for Manuel Villalobos. The score was still 4-2 when thunderstorms rolled in during the third inning, delaying the game more than two hours. Play was eventually resumed around 1:30 p.m.
Both starting pitchers returned from the break with different results. PN’s Cam French would toss four more shutout innings. St. Joseph’s Jack Veersma would reach the pitch count after giving up a fifth run in the fourth inning. The Huskies scored four against reliever Cole Kilboy in the fifth, including a two RBI triple from Greg Lapetina. Parker Brey had the final exclamation point on a two-run bomb in the seventh.
French finished with a six-inning win, allowing only four hits with six strikeouts. McCarthy scored three runs with two from Brey and Tyler Helgeson. Trey Neal pitched a scoreless seventh for PN. The Bears finish with a 12-16-1 overall record
W- Cam French 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB
L- Jack Veersma 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 K, 7 BB
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Portage Central’s lone run came in the first via Luke Leto’s leadoff single, brought in on a groundout by Bronson Wyman. Mattawan answered with three in the bottom half thanks to two hits, a walk, and error. Josh Swinehart picked up a RBI double for his first of five RBI on the day. Tanner Knapp kept the door closed from there on the mound, allowing only four hits over a complete game victory for the Wildcats.
Mattawan got one in the third, then broke through against PC starter Bronson Wyman in the fourth inning, capped off with a three-run Swinehart homer. He also added two singles for two runs and five RBI. Kyle Van Liere scored three times with two runs by Max Huntley and Luke Kerrins. Portage Central has their season end with a 21-10 record.
W- Tanner Knapp 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 6 K, 1 BB
L- Bronson Wyman 4 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 5 K, 3 BB
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The championship game was a pitcher’s duel after the first four innings. Portage Northern’s Xander Morris faced the minimum through four, meanwhile Mattawan’s AJ Walsh had a no-hitter, although two walks and an error gave the Huskies a third-inning run. In the fifth inning, PN exploded with eight hits, initially using bunts and infield singles to get runners on.
“The bunts were key, we practice bunting so much,” said Portage Northern head coach Chris Andrews. “We haven’t had as many opportunities this year because we’ve hit the ball so well from top-to-bottom. We got enough bunts down and then guys started hitting the ball hard.”
The hardest of the hits came from French, who smacked a grand slam over the right field wall for a 9-0 Husky lead.
“Cam is awesome,” noted Andrews. “Obviously, his biggest role for us this year has been as our number one pitcher, which he went and did his thing (versus St. Joe).”
“He has struggled at times hitting, I took the rally pike and wiped it all over him, apparently it helped. I feel so good for that kid to come up and do that. He works his tail off.”
At that point, the game was locked up as Morris continued his solid pitching, getting a complete game win with only one run against him.
“(Morris) threw a firm fastball, he had his curveball for a strike, staying in the zone,” said Andrews. “He’s only a sophomore, but he competes.”
French and Gannon Andrews both scored twice. Holden Kellogg had the lone Wildcat RBI, bringing in Swinehart on a groundout. Mattawan closes the season at 23-13.
W- Xander Morris 7 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 K, 0 BB
L- AJ Walsh 4.1 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 K, 4 BB
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With the win, Portage Northern improves to 33-7-1 and takes their second consecutive district title. The Huskies return to Mattawan for Wednesday’s single regional semifinal game at 5 p.m. ET. They’ll play either Pinckney or Dexter, who have to complete their district final Monday due to storm delays.
“We’ll practice Monday and Tuesday,” said Andrews. “We don’t care who we play, we just focus on the things we can control and our guys are great at that.”