Mother Nature put Nick Andres’ heroics on hold for three days.
But the Plymouth Christian Academy junior came through with flying colors in the bottom of the seventh inning of his team’s Division 4 district baseball final against Lutheran Westland.
Rain and thunder forced the game to be halted on Saturday with the score tied 3-3, with Andres at the plate and the bases loaded with two outs.
On Monday, the field at Lutheran Westland still wasn’t playable and so the Eagles and Warriors had to wait until Tuesday afternoon to finish what they started.
What a wait, what a reward.
Andres fouled off the first pitch he saw and then laced the next offering over the shortstop’s head, scoring courtesy runner Tanner Hay with the winning run in a 4-3 victory.
“I was on edge with my nerves the entire time,” recalled Andres, in an e-mail to the Observer. “From teachers, students and friends everyone made sure to tell me ‘no pressure’ even though they were adding to what was stirring inside me.
“But nevertheless I remained as calm as I could and not even try to think about it.”
The Eagles mobbed Andres at home plate, thrilled about the district title and a chance to play in the D4 regionals Saturday at Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (against Franklin Road Christian).
“As I ran out of the box after I made contact, I took a slight look and knew it was going down into left-center,” Andres continued. “Halfway down the baseline my legs got pretty weak and I started to cry as soon as I crossed the base because I knew we won.
“All the pressure just came right off and we were district champs. My team immediately tackled me and it was the greatest feeling in the world to be the hero of the game.”
Calm and clutch
Andres said the district winner was the highlight of his baseball career — surpassing two homers he hit for the Saline Storm travel team in the Cooperstown Tournament in upstate New York.
“After holding up that trophy, tears and all,” he noted, “I knew this was the greatest moment of my whole baseball career and I will never forget it.”
Neither will PCA head coach Joe Bottorff.
“I’ll tell you, Nick handled the situation like a champ,” Bottorff said. “He had three days to think about it along with everyone at school reminding him how much pressure he had on him.
“But we had a good practice on Monday and everyone on the team knew he could come through. When Nick stepped into the box on Tuesday, he was calm and confident and came through like we all knew he would.”
PCA trailed 3-0 until the fifth inning, when they put together a game-tying rally.
Matt Cusumano collected the Eagles’ first hit of the contest, doubling home Phil Morby annd Tanner Hay to slice the deficit to 3-2. Following with an RBI single was Will Crecelius, plating Cusumano with the equalizer.
Lutheran Westland threatened to regain the lead in the top of the seventh (PCA won the pre-game coin toss for home-field advantage), loading the bases with two outs. But the Eagles escaped when Mike Slater registered a strikeout.
That set the stage for the winning rally — which took about 72 hours to complete.
It started on Saturday, when Nathan Bishop pinch hit and singled to right field with one out. Hay went in to run for Bishop.
After a flyout, Crecelius picked up his second hit of the game and an intentional walk to Josh Slater loaded the bases.
Warriors pitcher Jordan Williams threw one pitch to Andres and umpires stopped play.
The next pitch wasn’t thrown until Tuesday and Andres was ready for it.
“I knew he was going to throw me a first-pitch fastball and knew he would keep throwing them throughout my at bat, so I wasn’t too worried, Andres added. “I just remained in the zone and walked up with confidence.
“My dad (Tim Andres), who has always been there throughout my entire baseball career, made sure to keep me calm and remind me that whatever happens that he would still be proud in everything that I have done as a baseball player and nothing could change that.”
With one perfect swing of the bat, something did — for the better