Reed City baseball team falls in regional finals

HE'S SAFE: Reed City's Hunter Morrison slides back into first base.
HE'S SAFE: Reed City's Hunter Morrison slides back into first base.

MORLEY — It was a regional baseball tournament filled with strategies on using pitcher counts, getting the key hits or critical defensive plays with runners in scoring position and deciding whether or not to make certain plays at various times.

When the dust settled, Grand Rapids West Catholic (25-12) was holding the regional trophy following a 3-2 win in eight innings over Reed City.

The Coyotes, who defeated Newaygo 5-1 in the regional semifinal, ended the season at 25-13 and saw their 13-game winning streak end.

In the bottom of the eighth, Chris Markules led off with a double and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Collin Miller. Reed City outfielders were playing in with only one out. Zander Jacobson sent a short pop fly to shallow right field in foul territory. As Coyote right fielder Stephan Shewan conveged on the ball, coach Marty Shaffer shouted encouragement for his outfielder to get ready to make the throw to the plate after making the catch.

Shewan's throw to catcher Jeff Phenix barely missed tagging out the baserunner, and the Falcons clinched the win.

Shewan commented afterwards perhaps he should have dropped the ball. But purposely dropping the ball still would have given the Falcons one out with a runner on third.

"He'll do everything you ask, and he wants to get the out, that's his first instinct," Reed City coach Marty Shaffer said. "We're going for outs. It's hard for me to say 'drop it.'"

"I probably wouldn't have caught that ball," West Catholic coach George Rosinski said. "It's a situation where he's going away from the field of play and where his throw has to go. But he made a good throw and it's a good play at the plate. It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and second-guess that."

West Catholic had beaten Montague 3-2 in the other semifinal. Reed City had the bases loaded early in the title game with one out, but couldn't score. In the top of the third, Phenix singled home a run and Logan Straub scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead. But Reed City left the bases loaded.

The Falcons got a run back the bottom of the fourth on Spencer Vainvicz's RBI single. Branden Nawrocki's RBI single the bottom of the sixth tied the game.

Starting Reed City pitcher Hunter Morrison had to come out in the sixth inning because of the pitch count. Luke VanHammen had fouled off eight pitches and Shaffer inserted lefthander Cody Kailing late in the inning. He got out of the inning with the game tied. In the bottom of the seventh, after West Catholic's leadoff batter reached base, Shaffer brought in No. 1 pitcher Logan Straub, who had been taken out late in the first game.

The strategy was to save pitches so Straub would still be eligible to pitch in Tuesday's quarterfinal game if the Coyotes advanced. The Falcons loaded the bases, but failed to score, sending the game into extra innings.

Phenix, Cameron Austin and Kailing had hits in the game. Morrison allowed four hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Reed City had a four-run inning against Newaygo the top of the third. Morrison singled and scored on a balk. A three-base throwing error by the Lions gave Reed City a 4-0 lead. Brandon Wirth's sacrifice fly the top of the fourth scored Shewan and made it 5-0. Newaygo got its only run the bottom of the fourth on a forceout.

Kailing came in the middle of the sixth and was able to hold down Newaygo.

"We had to plan ahead if we played Tuesday," Shaffer said. "We tried to save Straub, but obviously you have to win. We set up Straub with 75 pitches when we beat Newaygo and hoped not to use him again. West Catholic put a lot of pressure on our pitchers and fouled off a lot of pitches."

"It was an unusual day to play baseball with all the wind and elements out there," Rosinski said. "It was different in all three games. You have to change your attitude a bit. A win's a win. You have to score runs anyway you can."

"I'm extremely proud of these guys," Shaffer said. "We made a good run. We put them on the ropes and played well. We won a lot of close games this season. But you lose a couple that way too. It was a good day of baseball overall."