Two for the seniors

Wildcats beat Melvindale in home finale

News Photo by James Andersen Melvindale second baseman Ramon Lozoya, left, fields a throw ahead of a slide by Alpena leadoff hitter Aidan Goike during a baseball game on Saturday at Alpena High School. Goike was tagged out on the play.

The Alpena High baseball team gave its seniors a winning sendoff on Saturday.

The Wildcats rallied for a win in game one and won in a rout in game two, defeating Melvindale 4-3 and 9-0 at Alpena High School on Senior Day in their home finale.

“I was real pleased with the day. It’s our Senior Day, the last home game for them and (last chance to) try and get them as much playing time while still being competitive,” Alpena coach Phil Schultz said.

Errors played a huge role in the opener and a late one opened the door for Alpena’s offense.

With no outs and runners on first and second in the sixth inning, Anthony Berg laid down a bunt for Alpena (22-7). A routine throw over to first base sailed into the the outfield, bringing home Chris DeRocher and Keegan Spomer to score and tie the game 3-3.

News Photo by James Andersen Melvindale second baseman Ramon Lozoya lunges to field a ball at first base as Alpena runner Anthony Berg reaches safely during a baseball game on Saturday at Alpena High School. The play resulted in an error, allowing two Alpena runners to score to tie the game before the Wildcats eventually won 4-3.

With two outs, leadoff hitter Aidan Goike singled to score Berg for the game-winning run.

That inning brought a collective sigh of relief for the Wildcats, who struggled offensively through five innings and fell behind 3-0 after four innings. Alpena committed four errors in the game to Melvindale’s one, but one was all the Wildcats needed to take advantage.

“We didn’t play stellar baseball in that first game. We made too many errors. It’s kind of funny: we had four errors on the board and they make one error and it cost them really the ball game,” Schultz said. “I’m glad they kept battling.”

Melvindale scored first after a three-run fourth inning. With a runner on first and no outs, Alpena was called for interference on a pop-up, giving the Cardinals two runners on. That call opened the floodgates for Melvindale’s offense as the Cardinals tagged Alpena starter Bruz Copping for three runs, all with two outs.

Alpena got a run back in the fifth inning when Kyle VanDusen singled to score Goike, but Alpena’s offense was held to just one run on five hits through the first five innings after a solid outing by Melvindale starter Rudy Ochoa. The Cardinals’ ace went four innings, allowing three hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. Pitching in relief, Christon Ochoa eventually took the loss.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena senior Bruz Copping pitches during the first game of a doubleheader against Melvindale on Saturday at Alpena High School.

Jordan Schultz earned the win for Alpena in relief of Copping, pitching a two-hit shutout over the final three innings. Alpena committed four infield errors over the final three innings, but held the Cardinals in check.

“We were a little lethargic, we were down. I said, ‘Guys, you’ve got to pick it up. The intensity needs to grow. You’ve got to act like you want to be here. This is your last chance to play a varsity baseball game on this field, so start picking it up and get your heads in the game,'” Schultz said of his postgame message after the opener.

Goike, VanDusen and Colin Donajkowski each had two hits for Alpena.

Rudy Ochoa and Christon Ochoa each had two hits for Melvindale.

In between games, the Wildcats honored their 11 seniors–Berg, DeRocher, Copping, VanDusen, Goike, Colin Donajkowski, Clay Donajkowski, Austin Ritter, Alex Cosbitt, Colby Plowman and Owen Limback–and Schultz started an all-senior lineup for the nightcap, save for Spomer, who took the mound.

Schultz praised his seniors, several of whom have played three varsity seasons. Some members of Alpena’s senior class were part of two of the biggest recent achievements in program history, a district title in 2017 and a Big North Championship this season.

“They’re just awesome. I can’t say enough for these kids. They’re a great bunch to coach and I am truly blessed to be able to be called their coach,” Schultz said. “They did a lot of work over the years (and they’re) a class bunch of kids. They do their job and come to work every day.”

Alpena scored a run in the first inning of game two and kept building its lead from there. The Wildcats added two runs in the third inning, two more in the fifth inning and four in the sixth inning.

Spomer, Keegan Hahn and Travis Weide combined to pitch a three-hit shutout for Alpena.

Copping had a pair of RBI singles for Alpena and DeRocher and Colin Donajkowski each had two hits. Clay Donajkowski had two RBI and Plowman and Berg each had an RBI single.

Alpena will wrap up the regular season on Tuesday with a doubleheader at Elk Rapids.