Entering this season, the Rogers City baseball team had some new players and a new coach.
But the expectations for the Hurons remained the same and on Tuesday, so did the results.
Sparked by a four-run third inning, Rogers City defeated Onaway 4-2 in a Division 4 district title game to win its fourth consecutive district crown and first under coach Wayne Karsten.
News Photo by James Andersen
The Rogers City baseball team celebrates after winning its fourth straight district title on Tuesday in Rogers City. The Hurons defeated Onaway 4-2 in the district final game.
"It takes a little bit of the pressure off. That was pretty intense right there," Karsten said. "We happened to capitalize on some of their mistakes and they didn't capitalize on ours when they had a chance in the first inning and that was the difference in the ball game."
Chase Grulke helped seal the game for the Hurons (16-18) in the seventh inning, making an over-the-shoulder basket catch behind third base on a pop-up by Chae Whitsitt and then firing a throw to second base to help turn a game-ending double play.
"I just looked up but I didn't know if I was going to make it or not, so I figured I had to go for it and made the play," Grulke said. "It's just instinct, you can't really teach that. It's just something I knew."
Rogers City advances to regionals in Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday where the Hurons will face Rudyard. In the past two seasons, the Hurons have gone on to capture regional titles.
Onaway took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but Rogers City broke the game open in the third inning, scoring four times. Austin Brege, Chris Peacock and Lance Schaedig came up with RBI hits in the inning, with Schaedig delivering a two-run single with two outs and two strikes in the count.
Chad Karsten earned the win, allowing two runs on five hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. At the plate, Karsten and Brege each went 2-for-3 with a triple and Schaedig was 1-for-3 with two RBI.
A day after they stole 17 bases in a win over Alanson, the Cardinals had no steals against Rogers City as the Hurons stopped an early attempt and held Onaway in check from there.
Onaway added a run in the sixth inning and got a runner on second in the last inning, before Grulke came up with the play of the game, catching Whitsitt's pop-up with his back to home plate, much to the amazement of his coach.
"Chase made one of the greatest plays of the season to end the game on a double play, it was awesome," Karsten said. "When that ball went up I thought there's no way anybody's going to catch that ball."
The Hurons had every reason to celebrate afterward and were congratulated by former coach Howard Madsen, who retired last season after winning 25 district titles with Rogers City.
Rogers City has outscored its opponents 26-5 in its last three games and will surely be feeling confident as it prepares to face Rudyard on Saturday.
"We had a little bit of nerves there in the first inning, but we're peaking at the right time. There's nobody left we can't beat. We feel like we're the best team left in D-4, so we're going to keep rolling with it," Karsten said. "Our expectation is the same every year: It's Battle Creek or bust. That's our goal every year is to make it to Battle Creek regardless of what our roster looks like."