Lansing Catholic has come a long way to get to today’s Division 3 baseball semifinal in Battle Creek.
When the Cougars started their journey, they began a district opener against Pewamo-Westphalia with just two baseballs, stopping when the balls were fouled out of play and waiting for them to be retrieved before they could play again.
Since then, Lansing Catholic has played at Cooley Law School Stadium in the Dean Shippey Diamond Classic, home of the Lansing Lugnuts, and McLane Baseball Stadium on the campus of Michigan State in a Division 3 quarterfinal.
It’s all led the Cougars back to being one of the area’s elite programs and a chance for their first state championship in baseball since a Class C title in 1996 under former coach Phil Booth.
“I think it puts us on the radar. We’ve been down the past two years and it kind of puts us back on the map with teams like Grand Ledge and some of the other great teams in this area,” sophomore Austin Schertzing said.
The Cougars will take on Mancelona at 5 p.m. at Bailey Park’s C.O. Brown Stadium, and will try to become the first mid-Michigan area school to play in a state final in baseball since Grand Ledge lost to Grosse Pointe South in 2001.
Given their tough schedule, especially in non-league play, it’s been a tremendous season for the Cougars.
Lansing Catholic finished 13-22 in 2010 before posting a 21-10-2 overall record in 2011 with an 8-2 record in the CAAC White.
The Cougars lost in a regional final to Grandville Calvin Christian, but returned to go 30-6 this year and a perfect 10-0 in the CAAC White.
“Two years ago there was a group of young kids that came in and we just worked our butts off and knew what we could achieve if we put it together,” the Cougars’ Adam Babcock said.
“We had those two real tough years and just getting that winning mentality back that was established by Phil Booth and Jake Boss before us was important and re-establishing that,” coach Mike Scott said.
“You can definitely say we’re battle tested. That’s the one thing with this group, they’ve seen the lows and they don’t want to go back to that and they’re doing everything to keep winning. …
“There’s a lot of fighters in this group.”
There are plenty of hitters, too. It’s not a lineup filled with power, but Lansing Catholic can score runs.
Eight Cougars boast batting averages higher than .325 and six have 32 hits or more. Babcock leads the Cougars from the leadoff spot with 42 hits and a .412 average.
“One of the big things that we stress is being aggressive and not taking that many pitches right down the middle,” Schertzing said. “If it’s down the middle, jump on it and hit them hard. That’s helped us out a lot this year.”
“Out of the 15 guys on our roster, it’s hard to pinpoint one guy,” Scott said. “In high school, a lot of times you’ve almost got that sure out in certain spots in your lineup, but with this group as a coach you have faith that you can put them in any situation out there and you can get the job done.”
The Cougars fell to the Comets in the semifinals of this year’s Diamond Classic, but if they can get the job done today, they’ll have a chance to bring home the ultimate prize.
“The kids just want it this year,” Babcock said. “Everybody’s focused and everybody’s locked in right now and it’s fun to play with them. It’s like no one really wants it to end.”