The territory is new for the Port Huron Little League 16-and-under team as it travels into the sectional round of the state tournament.
Many of the players were on the team two years ago when Port Huron came up just short in its bid to reach the sectionals. This time around, Port Huron advanced with a hard-earned 3-2 win over St. Clair in the district finals.
“We did this one time as a group, and we came up just short,” coach Don Nichols said. “With these kids playing with and against each other for many years, it really created a good friendship … and that created the group that they are.”
The team, mostly composed of athletes from Port Huron High School, topped St. Clair twice last week in the district tournament.
Port Huron will play Saginaw Township in a best-of-three series this weekend. The winner advances to the regional round in Kalamazoo for a chance to be named the best in the state.
The district tournament held room for heroics.
Port Huron trailed by a run in the sixth inning of its first game with St. Clair, but a two-run home run by Bruce Hudson brought a 6-5 win.
For the weekend, Hudson went 7 of 10 at the plate with a pair of homers.
In the championship game, Zach Denean and Tony Fayed combined for seven strikeouts in the 3-2 victory.
“Zach was just, well, what’s another word for spectacular?” Nichols asked. “He pitched well and kept the hitters off-balanced.”
Denean lives in Marine City, but the rest of the roster is from Port Huron. It’s a close-knit group.
“I look at (never playing in sectionals) as an advantage, because these kids don’t know what they’re going into right now,” Nichols said. “Experience is a plus, but I think it’s nice to go in with a fresh mindset this weekend.”
First pitch of Saturday’s double-header will be thrown at noon Saturday at Valley Lutheran High School. If each team wins a game on Saturday, a deciding game in the best-of-three finals will be played Sunday.