HOLT – In order for the Holt baseball team to make school history, coach Nate Potts knew his team would have to play some of its best innings early in Saturday’s Division 1 regional tournament.
One win would give this Rams club the most ever in a season. Another victory would give them their first regional title in school history.
But awaiting Holt in the semifinals was No. 6-ranked Howell, and the Highlanders had plans of their own.
After taking a 2-0 lead into the top of the fifth inning, the Rams eventually fell short to Howell, 6-4, in the opening round of the regional tournament held at Holt High School.
“Howell comes out of one of the toughest districts in the State of Michigan,” said Potts, whose team tied the 2005 and 2012 teams for most wins a season (30). “There’s always a good chance that whoever comes out of this region goes all the way to the finals. And we knew that.
“For us to get what we got out of them today was remarkable. …I was proud of the way we came out, and I was proud of the way we finished.”
Holt jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Burrell Jones’ stand-up triple scored Tyler Brown. The Rams (30-10) tacked on another run in the bottom of the third after Jesse Heikkinen’s sacrifice fly brought in Drew Stavischeck from third.
Despite the fact that a ground-rule double from the Highlanders’ Bryan Rendell negated two runs in the top of the fifth, Howell went on to score three runs in the inning and never trailed again.
“I think they got a lot of momentum there,” said Heikkinen, a Michigan State commit, who recorded four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of work on the mound. “We kept fighting. We left it all out there.”
Holt, trailing 6-2, went on to add two more runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Okemos found itself as the last remaining CAAC Blue team after the Rams went down early Saturday morning. However, in the tournament’s following game, the Chiefs eventually fell to Portage Northern, 13-3, in the bottom of the sixth.
Okemos, which won its first district title since 2007 last week, scored the game’s first run in the top of the first. After the Huskies’ Michael Lincoln walked lead-off hitter Nathan Dane, Luke Stagg’s single four batters later brought Dane home.
Portage Northern quickly tied it up on its first at-bat of the day when Tommy Henry hit a solo home run over the right-field fence. The Huskies went on to add another run before the inning was over.
Going into the top of the fourth, down 6-1, the Chiefs (12-16-2) were able to bring in two runs before two outs were recorded in the inning. Okemos had the bases loaded with just one out on the board, but a fly out by Dane and a strikeout on Billy Brehm stopped the Chiefs from threatening any further.
“It seemed like every time we got the bases full we left a couple out there, and every time they did they brought them all in,” Stagg said. “That was a big difference in the game.”
For coach Phil Magsig, watching his ball club finish the season with a postseason run was promising, as Okemos started the year 0-10-2.
“We just take it one step at a time,” he said. “That’s what’s kind of fun about districts – no matter what your record is going into it, anybody can win it. We proved it this year.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.