Reed City defense falters as team falls in regional title game

LAKEVIEW — The defensive performance the Reed City Coyotes were hoping for just didn’t come together in Saturday’s Division 3 baseball regional championship game at Lakeview.

The Coyotes, frustrated by seven errors, lost 9-1 to Muskegon Oakridge.

Reed City scored in the top of the second on Glen Ryder’s RBI single. But key Coyote errors opened the door to a five-run second inning for the Eagles, who got a two-run triple from Brody Benson.

RBI singles by Benson and Jamie Potts gave Oakridge a 7-1 lead in the fourth. In the fifth, Oakridge scored on a suicide squeeze play and Kyle Winicki added an RBI single in the sixth.

“You can’t give Oakridge any more extra outs than what they have,” said Reed City coach Scott Shankel, referring to the seven errors. “The one inning, there were two outs and our leftfielder misplayed the ball and we missed a popup so it’s a five-run inning. I think it was nerves. It’s been 11 years since anyone from Reed City has been here. We have our seniors and we’re young yet. Some it it was nerves. Oakridge was here last year. They’re senior loaded.”

Nick Eely was the winning pitcher. He gave up just three hits to Ricky Droke, Trevor Mund and Ryder.

“Nick has been a bulldog all year,” said Oakridge coach Brandon Barry. “He gives the infield and outfield a little bit of action and gets his fair share of strikeouts too.”

Evan Stieg took the loss. He allowed seven hits and had three strikeouts.

“I thought Evan pitched spots and made them hit the ball,” Shankel said. “We just didn’t field it.”

Oakridge defeated Mason County Central 10-0 in five innings in the other regional semifinal.

“The first game, I think we felt good about getting that win against such a good ball team,” said Barry. “The second game seemed kind of funky and kind of out of sorts. When you’re not necessarily hitting the ball as crisply as we did in the first game, you have to take advantage of mistakes and we did that.”

Oakridge improved to 27-4.

“Benson with that triple kind of broke it open a little bit,” Barry said. “We maybe weren’t quite ready to start that game.”

Reed City defeated Central Montcalm 4-0 in the first regional semifinal game. Codie Strach went the distance, allowing four hits and seven walks while striking out 13. He had a home run and two singles.

Josh Justin, Alex Repo, Glen Ryder and Stieg had hits for the Coyotes.

“It wasn’t one of our better games,” said Shankel. “But a win’s a win. Codie pitched well.”

“It was one of my better performances,” Strach said. “It was my fastball. I was hitting spots.”

Strach hit the home run in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. He feasted on a fastball from CM’s Shane Miller.

“I’m trying to relax on my swing and kind of jumped on it,” Strach said, adding that it was key for the Coyotes to get the lead, “especially early in the game because I think the pitcher gets rattled for the rest of the game.”

Josh Justin followed in the third with an RBI single and another run scored on an error for a 3-0 lead. Reed City added another run in the fourth.

The loss ended an eight-game winning streak for the Coyotes who are 20-14.

“I’m extremely happy,” said Shankel, a first-year coach for Reed City. “I’ve been blessed with a group good of kids. I’m hoping everyone wants to carry that torch and keep it going.”