Chemistry between Altman, Wirgau paying off for Hurons

News File Photo Rogers City pitcher Krysten Altman (2) and Amanda Wirgau share a moment after both of them tried to catch a foul ball during a quarterfinal game against Rudyard. The duo’s chemistry is one of many reasons for the Hurons’ success this season.

Sometimes all it takes is a head nod or a finger point for Krysten Altman and Amanda Wirgau to know what the other is thinking.

When that happens, it usually means good things for the Hurons and a long day for their opponents.

Rogers City’s battery–junior pitcher Altman and senior catcher Wirgau–has been very effective for the Hurons all year and especially in the postseason.

The Hurons are hoping the duo’s chemistry shines through again on the big stage Friday as the Hurons take on Unionville-Sebewaing in a Division 4 semifinal at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.

In four postseason starts, Altman has been unshakable on the mound and has given her team a chance to win every time out.

“She’s really really good out there and she handles herself well. She doesn’t let the pressure get to her and we can really count on her,” senior Catheryn Hart said of Altman.

With Wirgau calling pitches behind the plate, Altman–who earned an all-state honorable mention last season–has shown the ability to get out hitters herself or pitch to contact and let the defense go to work. In four playoff starts, she’s allowed just three runs on 21 hits with two walks, 34 strikeouts and two shutouts.

She fanned 16 batters during a 1-0 win over Johannesburg-Lewiston in districts and then stifled Onaway and Rudyard even as they made contact at the plate in subsequent wins.

Altman is 18-5 on the season with a 1.75 earned-run average and 176 strikeouts against just 21 walks.

Rogers City coach Karl Grambau has lauded the duo’s ability all season and Altman and Wirgau seem to be more in sync the higher the stakes are.

“I’m pretty sure that we’re in each other’s minds all the time. I can look at her and she knows what pitch we’re going to throw,” Wirgau said. “We see the batter swing once and we’re just shaking our heads (knowingly) at that point. I give the signs, but we already know. It’s awesome.”

The duo’s success, which at times looks effortless, is the result of many years of playing together and developing chemistry.

“Amanda and I have been playing together since we were little kids, like 9 and 10 years old, so we’ve been pitching and catching together for a very long time. That’s helped a lot with the chemistry between us,” Altman said. “She just knows what needs to be called, when it needs to be called and a lot of the time we’re thinking about the same pitch, so it works out great.”

Wirgau, who’s began calling games from behind the plate just this year, has been a steady presence as Rogers City’s catcher. While she’s handled with Rogers City’s pitching staff so well this season, she’s also managed to make several big plays of her own.

There was none bigger than the one she made to help secure Rogers City’s spot in East Lansing. With Rudyard’s Desta MacDowell representing the tying run on third base on Tuesday, Altman fired a strike to Chesney Molina.

Rather than immediately tossing the ball back to Altman, Wirgau correctly anticipated Rudyard would try and make a play and held on to the ball. By holding the ball for a few extra seconds, the Hurons caught MacDowell in a rundown and Wirgau fired the ball to Hart at third base, who made the tag for the final out.

The chemistry between Wirgau and Altman has allowed them to hold some hard-hitting lineups in check including Onaway, Hillman and Rudyard. They’ll try to do the same on Friday against a high-scoring Unionville offense that’s won five postseason games by an average of more than 11 runs.

The two teams have played once already this season, but Wirgau and Altman have spent time this week working on different strategies for a lineup they’re not entirely familiar with.

Stopping the Patriots will be a challenge, but it’s one Altman, Wirgau and the rest of the Hurons are looking forward to.

Altman got a taste of the semifinals last season pitching well in Rogers City’s semifinal loss to Coleman– two runs on six hits with a strikeout and two walks. With that experience to draw from, she’s happy the Hurons get another shot at vying for a state title.

“It’s amazing. I’m so excited,” Altman said. “All the girls are super excited that we get another chance to maybe prove that we can win.”