After the Rogers City baseball team defeated Onaway 4-2 on Tuesday to earn a fourth consecutive district title, Hurons' coach Wayne Karsten said his team felt like it was the best team remaining in Division 4.
The Hurons will get a chance to prove it today as they face Rudyard in a regional semifinal game in Sault Ste. Marie. Johannesburg-Lewiston will face Norway in the other semifinal.
In the past few weeks, nothing has slowed the Hurons (16-18), who will be looking to capture a third straight regional title. Rogers City outscored two opponents 14-2 to win a district title on its home field on Tuesday and have come a long way since the beginning of the season when there were still kinks in the lineup.
News File Photo
Rogers City’s Chris Peacock makes contact with a pitch Monday against Harbor Light during a Division 4 district semifinal game in Rogers City.
"We knew there was going to be some rough spots, but we had March, April and May to get it all figured out," Karsten said. "We got it figured out and we're playing some good ball."
The key to this year's Rogers City team has been the number of young players who've grown into defensive roles and a new group of pitchers become the strength of the team. Last season, the Hurons had the 1-2 punch of Dylan Kortman and Alex Jozwiak dominating on the mound, but this season a trio of pitchers-Paul Wilbert, Chris Peacock and Chad Karsten- has become the workhorses that are vital to postseason success. Karsten allowed just two runs on five hits against Onaway and Wilbert was masterful against Harbor Light on Monday, allowing four hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in a 10-0 win.
Behind their pitchers, the Hurons have stepped up on defense with nearly everyone in the lineup contributing. Karsten pointed to several younger players that have mixed in well with Rogers City's veterans. Alex Andrzejewski has become the starting shortstop as a freshman, Jacob Malocha has played well behind the plate, Brandon Darling has been steady at second base and both Colton and Blake Fessler have shown ability to hit the ball well when given a chance to play.
Today's Baseball Regionals
At Sault Ste. Marie
Rogers City vs. Rudyard, 10 a.m.
Johannesburg-Lewiston vs. Norway,
Championship game, 2 p.m.
At Bay City All Saints
Harbor Beach vs. Merrill, 10 a.m.
Kingston vs. Alcona, 12 p.m.
Championship game, 2 p.m.
Like Rogers City, the other three teams in the district powered their way to district titles with Norway beating Newberry, Rudyard beating Pellston and Johannesburg-Lewiston beating Hillman.
Even though the pressure grows as a team gets deeper into the postseason, Karsten said there was pressure to win a district title and he's glad to get that out of the way and focus on bigger goals.
"I'm glad to get that over with, just to continue the tradition," Karsten said.
Much like the Hurons, the Alcona baseball team has been playing its best baseball of the year as of late and will look to keep going when it plays Kingston in a regional semifinal today in Bay City. Harbor Beach will play Merrill on the other side of the bracket.
Alcona coach Seth Coffing said Kingston plays a similar style to that of the Tigers and even upset the favorite en route to winning a district title. Kingston defeated Carsonville-Port Sanilac 4-2 to win a district championship while Alcona topped Mio 3-2.
Coffing said the Tigers plan to pitch either Trenton LaVergne or Bryan Layton against the Cardinals and then go with Cody Franklin should they advance to the regional championship. All three pitched well in district play and Layton and Nathan Fettes came up with RBI hits in both games.
"We had a lot of fun Monday," Coffing said. "The kids realized you're able to accomplish something when you work hard. We've having a lot of fun and looking forward to Saturday."