For the fifth time in six seasons, the Portage Northern baseball team has claimed a district championship. The Huskies topped eighth-ranked Mattawan 6-2 in the semifinal Saturday, followed by a 9-1 victory against crosstown rival Portage Central in the championship. The Mustangs made the final thanks to an 8-0 semifinal win against host Kalamazoo Central.
“It’s hard to say the greatest group of kids I’ve ever had, because I’ve had such great kids through the years,” said Portage Northern head coach Chris Andrews. “This is a special group. This group of seniors has stepped up with their leadership. The most selfless team I’ve ever had, for sure.”
Back on Tuesday, the Huskies were one out from elimination at St. Joseph, but rallied for a 10-7 win. On Saturday, Portage Northern used two complete games on the mound and stellar defense to advance to the regional round.
District Final: Portage Northern 9, Portage Central 1.
The Mustangs scored first, getting their only run in the first inning as Evan Williams brought home Ben Cunningham with a sacrifice fly. PC nearly got another run in the second, but a backhanded stop by second baseman Nolan McCarthy took away a likely RBI hit for out number three. The Huskies evened the contest in the top of the third as Tyler Helgeson came home on a PC error.
Portage Central had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the third, loading the bases with one out against Husky ace Cam French. However, shortstop Jon Wolf made a tremendous grab at second base, stepped on the bag, then tossed it to first for an inning-ending double play.
Wolf made two more stellar plays on 6-3 groundouts in the fourth inning, firing up the Portage Northern dugout. He was the first player handed the district trophy (pictured above) by coach Andrews largely thanks to those plays. That momentum carried into the top of the fourth inning as the Huskies brought in five runs on four hits, two walks, and an error. Portage Northern added two more in the sixth and one in the seventh.
On the mound, French allowed only one baserunner in the final four innings, finishing with six hits and one run against him over seven innings. French also added two hits and two RBI offensively. Helgeson and Greg Lapetina both scored twice for the Huskies. McCarthy added two hits and two RBI.
14th-ranked Portage Northern improves to 26-9-2 with Saturday’s wins and advances to next Saturday’s regional semifinal at 10 a.m. against Brighton from Lakeview High School in Battle Creek. Portage Central finishes the year at 18-11-1.
W- Cam French: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 1 BB
L- Luke Leto: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 K, 2 BB
Semifinal #1: Portage Northern 6, Mattawan 2.
The Huskies and Wildcats had a quick moving pitching duel to open up Saturday’s action with both starters retiring the first six batters in order. Portage Northern broke through against Mattawan’s Jake Carroll in the third inning, scoring two runs on two walks, one hit, and one error. The Huskies added four more in the fourth inning with three hits, one walk, and one error.
Portage Northern pitcher Michael Lincoln was perfect through 4.2 innings, with Mattawan finally getting to him with two runs thanks to two hits and two walks in the bottom of the fifth. He allowed two more hits in the sixth inning, but stranded both runners. A one-two-three seventh inning secured the complete game win for the senior. Offensively, Noah Hecht led the way for the Huskies with three hits, three RBI, and one run.
Mattawan finishes the year at 31-7, setting a school-record for most wins in a season.
W- Michael Lincoln: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 7 K, 2 BB
L- Jake Carroll: 4 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 1 ER, 5 K, 3 BB
Semifinal #2: Portage Central 8, Kalamazoo Central 0.
Kalamazoo Central got two men on in the first off an error and walk, but lost both due to baserunning blunders. The Maroon Giants would get only one more baserunner the entire game, as Bronson Wyman was stellar on the mound. The Mustang junior had a no-hitter until surrendering his lone hit in the sixth. Freshman Aidan Eichman pitched a scoreless seventh to seal the deal.
Portage Central’s offense exploded in the fifth inning, scoring five runners on five hits and two walks. The Mustangs scored thrice more in the sixth, including two via a Cunningham home run. He had two runs, two hits, and three RBI on the day. Luke Leto made it on base in all five plate appearances, scoring twice on three hits and two walks.
The Maroon Giants finish their season at 18-13-1.
W- Bronson Wyman: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 7 K, 1 BB
L- Lukas Bolton: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 9 K, 5 BB