Wildcats come up short in MacKenzie Invite final
After winning the opening game of its annual MacKenzie Invitational in dramatic fashion, the Alpena baseball team had an opportunity for some more late game heroics on Saturday.
But the Wildcats came up just short and lost in the championship game to Standish 7-6 to complete a 2-1 weekend and a second-place finish at Alpena High School.
“It’s a tough one to swallow, but we did come through and battled to the end. It’s just disappointing we made some simple mistakes and Standish capitalized on it and they’re a pretty good ball club and you can’t do that against a quality team,” Alpena coach Phil Schultz said.
Alpena trailed 7-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Wildcats had a golden opportunity to tie or win the game when Bruz Copping and Chris DeRocher walked to begin Alpena’s turn at the plate.
Colin Donajkowski put a good swing on the ball but flew out to center field for the first out.
Standish pitcher Cole Prout struck out the next batter before walking Owen Limback to load the bases and bringing the winning run to second base.
Kyle VanDusen stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs with a chance to win the game. VanDusen drove a ball deep to center field but the ball hung up in the wind and was caught for final out.
“Kyle stung it right on the numbers and unfortunately just hit it right at somebody. It almost looked like we were going to pull it out, but it wasn’t to be,” Schultz said. “Colin has been one of our hottest hitters and he was the guy we wanted up at that time in that situation and I decided to let him swing it rather than bunting to advance the runners.”
The Wildcats held a 2-0 lead after one inning as Aidan Goike and Copping both reached base and scored.
Keegan Spomer started on the mound for Alpena and was sharp early but ran into trouble in the third inning.
Spomer issued three walks in the inning and the Panthers collected a pair of hits including a bases clearing, three-RBI double from Dylan Kolbiaz and Standish scored five runs in the inning to take a 5-2 lead.
“Spomer wasn’t right today. There was things that just weren’t right and he wasn’t mechanically sound and he doesn’t usually get that wild and today was just wasn’t a normal performance,” Schultz said. “Unfortunately he had the bad inning and Standish took advantage of it.”
Alpena responded with three runs of its own in the home half of the third to tie the game.
Each team added a run apiece in the fourth and the game was tied 6-6 after four innings.
Standish scored the eventual game winning run in the fifth inning when Keagan Wendel led off the frame with a solo home run that hit the top of the left field fence and bounced over.
“We talked about we have to be mentally into the game and sometimes we tend to take pitches off and then we’re behind. When we’re in a tight ball game like we were, we have to remain focused and ready to play,” Schultz said. “A game like this gives us a chance to learn that if we’re not ready, these kind of things can happen. A good team will take advantage of you.”
The Wildcats made quick work in the first game as they mercied Sault Ste. Marie 10-0 in just five innings.
Alpena took advantage of its opportunities and costly errors from the Blue Devils to take care of business in game one.
The big hit in game one came in the second inning when Clay Donajkowski hit a bases-clearing double to drive in three runs.
It was more than enough offense for Copping, who started the game and earned the victory on the mound.
Four Wildcats were named to the all-tournament team. VanDusen, Goike, Copping and Colin Donajkowski represented Alpena and earned all-tournament recognition.
The Wildcats will now focus their attention on Tuesday’s game when they play Big North Conference rival Traverse City West.
“We learn from what happened today, build on it and we have to take care of Traverse City on Tuesday and that’s our big focus and hopefully we’ll come ready to play,” Schultz said.