A young Harper Creek baseball squad is coming into its own as the Beavers get ready to continue their playoff push after winning a district championship last week.
Harper Creek, the only city team to win its district, travels to Carleton Airport on Saturday where it will face a tough Tecumseh squad in the first round of MHSAA regional play.
A handful of area schools also won their districts and will be playing in regional action on Saturday. In Division 2, Coldwater plays Otsego at Stevensville-Lakeshore. In Division 3, No. 6-ranked Homer will face Jackson Lumen Christi at Blissfield; Quincy takes on Bridgman at Centreville; Olivet plays at Lansing Catholic; and Maple Valley plays Grandville Calvin Christian at Lansing Catholic.
Harper Creek started its year slow, but ended the season with a solid 17-9 record. A lot of the Beavers’ success can be attributed to the growth of the team’s young pitching staff, particularly sophomore Joe Stasa and junior Mickey Barea.
“When our season started off we were struggling and not hitting the ball well and lately we’ve come on and we’re playing good ball now,” Barea said. “Our pitching has been picking it up as well. We have a young pitching staff this year with me as a junior and Stasa as a sophomore, but we’ve been able to pitch pretty well.”
As they’ve done all season long, the Beavers leaned heavily on the arms of Stasa and Barea during districts. Barea gave up just one earned run and struck out seven in Harper Creek’s district semifinal win against Parma Western, while Stasa threw a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts against city-rival Pennfield in the district championships last weekend.
“Our pitching has been solid. We’re a young staff, but there’s a lot of talent there,” Harper Creek coach Chad Dishaw said. “They pound the strike zone and mix it up a little bit with their speed. Joey Stasa and Mickey Barea have just been lights out all season long. They’re our two horses and we’re gonna rely on them a lot this weekend.”
Tecumseh, the Beavers’ opponent on Saturday, is 24-10 on the year and won its division in the Southeastern Conference.
“We’re where we want to be. We played well in our district last weekend and we’re looking forward to the challenge this weekend when we go down to Carleton Airport,” Dishaw said. “I don’t know if too many people believed or expected us to be district champions, but I think our team and our coaching staff did and they’re excited for this opportunity. It’s a fun time of year.”