DEWITT, Mich. (WLNS) – It’s not often you get two of the state’s Top 8 teams meeting in the district semifinals. Well, that is what we had Saturday at DeWitt.
Grand Ledge, No. 1 in the final Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Division 1 poll, put its season on the line against DeWitt, No. 8 in the final MHSBCA Division 1 poll.
The rivals split their two meetings in the regular season, a doubleheader back on May 3, and now someone had a chance to end the others state title hopes.
In the first two innings, of Saturday’s semifinal, the Comets got two early runs and held a 2-0 lead. However, in the third inning, with the bases loaded, DeWitt senior catcher Grant Uyl got the Panther bench fired up in a hurry.
Uyl sent a ball over the left-field wall for a grand slam, giving DeWitt a 4-2 lead. The Panthers would add two more runs in the third inning and another two in the fourth inning to take an 8-2 lead into the fifth.
The score stayed that way until the seventh and final inning, meaning it was all or nothing time for the Comets.
“We sat down together and got around the guys and said ‘This is when we want to make memories right now,'” Grand Ledge senior outfielder and pitcher, Noah Warren said.
Which is exactly what they did. Make a memory.
With the two runners on and no outs, Logan Todd hit an RBI single to score the Comets’ first run of the inning. In the next at-bat, Kaden Nowak went up the middle for a single that loaded the bases.
Senior Aiden Alspaugh would record an RBI on a groundout to second base, cutting DeWitt’s lead to 8-4. Next at-bat, Caleb Estrada went shopping at the gap for a two-run double, making it an 8-6 game. Thomas Kerrigan followed that up with an RBI double. Grand Ledge had a chance to tie the game at eight on Kerrigan’s swing, but DeWitt threw a runner out at the plate for the second out of the inning.
Owen Smith then walked to put runners on first and second for Grand Ledge. In the next at-bat, Nathan Droste singled up the middle, scoring Kerrigan from second, to complete the comeback and tie the game at eight.
And that’s when Warren decided it was time for the dagger.
“We’re trying to make memories,” Grand Ledge Co-head coach, Grant Householder said. “I told him before he came up, ‘This could be the big memory.'”
That’s exactly what Warren did. With two runners on, Warren sent the first pitch he saw out to right-field for a three-run walk-off home run, giving Grand Ledge an 11-8 win and a spot in the district championship after trailing by six runs entering the final inning.
“I still can’t believe it,” Warren said. “Batter after batter we went through, kept the rally going and we won.”
“For him to come up, I thought it was going to be a double – which still would have ended it, but for it to go over the fence and to have the entire team get all over him, it was an awesome moment,” Householder said.
Grand Ledge would wait close to four hours before playing the district championship game against East Lansing, who defeated Okemos in the semifinal 5-3.
The Comets showed no layover from the wait between the semifinal and the final. The Comets scored two runs in the first inning and then, Warren was at it again in the fourth inning. The senior hit his second home run of the day, this time a two-run shot to give Grand Ledge a 4-1 lead.
After scoring one more run, Grand Ledge was able to take down East Lansing 5-1 to claim the district title, making it three district titles in three seasons for the seniors.
If you’re wondering how Grand Ledge was able to stay locked in after a wild semifinal win, here’s how they did it.
“The kids were just loose as ever,” Grand Ledge Co-head coach, Mike Rademacher said. “We even had one of our players read an elementary book to the other players. I mean they just cooled off and were on their phones, and just relaxed a little bit. But then they knew when it was time to get going again.”
“We were in the elementary classroom and we had to occupy our time so I think to calm us down was to read a children’s book,” Warren said with a laugh.
“Going into this game we said ‘That last game means nothing if we don’t win this one,’ because this is what we want, we want the trophy at the end. So, that’s what we’re playing for and we’re about to get two more,” Grand Ledge senior shortstop, Logan Todd said confidently.
Grand Ledge will take on Howell in the regional semifinal, on June 9 at 5 p.m. at DeWitt.