It could be said that the state tournament is the ultimate stage.
If so, the Hartland baseball team has a flair for the dramatic.
The Eagles pulled out a pair of wins in a Division 1 regional at Novi Saturday, both of them 3-2 and both in dramatic fashion.
In the end, Hartland (25-16-1) earned its first quarterfinal berth in three years. They will face Troy Athens in a 4 p.m. matchup Tuesday on the same Novi field.
“All year we’ve been playing in low-scoring, tight games and I just think it all came to help us in games like this,” Hartland coach Brian Morrison said. “Our last three games have been one-run games like that.”
Hartland, with junior left-hander Nathan Lohmeier cruising on the mound, carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning while scoring their lone run in the first off CC starter Dante Toppi when Gary Turnbull walked and scored on Max Cadman’sdouble.
But the Shamrocks received a lifeboat in the sixth when Justin Green legged out a single when he hit a chopper between the pitcher’s mound and first base. Green collided with Lohmeier on a bang-bang play at the bag as both players went down.
After several minutes being attended to by a trainer, Lohmeier was unable to continue after handcuffing the Shamrocks on just four hits with eight strikeouts and no walks in 51/3 innings.
“It looked like they just hit knee-to-knee,” Morrison said. “I don’t know if it was just that contact or if they twisted or something. We just had to wait, but there was no way he (Lohmeier) could put enough weight there to pitch, let alone play a position. So that kind of got everything scrambled because we were kind of rolling along there.”
Toppi, a junior right-hander, was cruising himself as he entered the top of the seventh with the one-run lead.
But Max Hendricks led off with a double and moved up to third base on a wild pitch. With the infield drawn in, Toppi fanned R.J. Bortle, but Hendricks scored from third on a wild pitch in the dirt on what turned out to be a botched suicide squeeze attempt to make it 2-all.
“We didn’t get a great pitch,” Morrison said. “If he (Oliver) had gotten a better pitch he probably lays it down. All I was thinking was tying the game because he’s a good bunter, tie the game and put the run at second even if they had thrown us out at first. That was the thinking behind it. We execute it with certain guys that can do it and it kind of called for it. And it kind of worked out for us.”
After a intentional walk to Baker, who was pinch-hitting, CC’s Grant Hartwig struck out Brett Oliver, but the third strike eluded Scott at the plate and the runner (Oliver) advanced to first. Jack Slavin then hit a grounder to CC shortstop Nick Marcon, who stepped on the bag to get the force, but his throw to first went awry and courtesy runner Cade Martin scored from third with the go-ahead run.
Baker then retired CC in order in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of ground outs and a strikeout.
In the first game, Hartland rallied twice from one-run deficits and beat West Bloomfield on a walk-off single by Max Cadman, whose grounder on Monday had led to the winning run in a 13-inning win over Lakeland.
Alex Vydick singled and Hunter DeLanoy walked to lead off the inning. After Baker struck out, Cadman singled to left and Morrison, coaching third, sent Vydick home.
“I probably shouldn’t have sent him,” Morrison said, “But they have to throw and catch the ball and weren’t able to. The throw was wide right and Alex slid to the left, and he was safe.”
Baker threw a complete game in the opener, striking out 10 and holding West Bloomfield to two hits.
“He pitched outstanding,” Morrison said. “He had guts and wants the ball and to be in those situations. He doesn’t want to let the team down. That’s how he does things.”
DeWitt 4, Fowlerville 0
EATON RAPIDS – Eric Fritz pitched a 2-hitter for the Gladiators, who were undone by four errors.
“The only team that beat Fowlerville was Fowlerville,” Glads coach Mike Hanna said. “We didn’t want to end like that, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m proud of the guys, and the majority of them are coming back.”
Fritz struck out six, but DeWitt starter Donovan Tarn held Fowlerville (22-8) to three hits.
Division 1 State Meet
BIG RAPIDS – Hartland had its second-best finish as a team, placing fourth in the event at Katke Golf Course on the Ferris State University campus.
Detroit Catholic Central, which broke 500 on both days, finished at 591, 31 shots ahead of second-place Battle Creek Lakeview.
“We knew we would have to play our best, and they (Catholic Central) were not to be denied,” Hartland coach Nathan Oake said.
Canton was third at 624 and Hartland was a stroke behind at 625.
It was the best finish for a Hartland team at the state meet since the Eagles won the state title in 1997.
“I’m very proud of my seniors,” Oake said. “They gave everything they had and battled to the bitter end, and that’s what makes me so proud. It was an emotional day and an emotional weekend.”
Among individual qualifiers, Howell’s Trevor Spagnoletti shot 84-91–175, and Yale Benedict of Brighton finished at 90-94–184.