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Bucs baseball claims district title; softball falls just short

Alec Brzezinski • Jun 3, 2019 at 12:15 AM

Grand Haven Twp. – The Grand Haven baseball team caught fire offensively Sunday to defeat Mona Shores and West Ottawa for a Division 1 district title.

Playing a rare Sunday doubleheader, after scattered thunderstorms washed out most of Saturday’s action, the Bucs brought their hitting cleats to the field. Normally known as a shutdown pitching team, Grand Haven scored 19 combined runs after defeating Mona Shores 8-1 and West Ottawa 11-0 in five innings.

“All year long these kids have been battling,” said Bucs head coach Mike Hansen. “I told them a couple times this season that if they can score three or four runs a game we are going to be a real tough team to beat. And today the bats just livened up and we scored 19 runs in two games. If we can do even half of that the team has a chance to be competitive.

“Things just went our way today, but the players made it all happen. They earned it and played good baseball.”

Grand Haven started the day with a district semifinal matchup against Mona Shores. The two teams waited over five hours to play Saturday, but weather pushed the game back. Owen Krizan toed the rubber, allowing just one unearned run with seven strikeouts in six innings. Tyler Harp pitched a scoreless seventh inning in relief.

Offensively, the Bucs pounced on Mona Shores early, scoring three runs in the second inning and five more in the third. Alex Kapala led the team with three hits, while Tanner Williams and Ethan Prins had two hits apiece in the convincing victory.

The Bucs then faced West Ottawa in the final, with Kapala earning the start. He tossed 4 and two-thirds scoreless innings with five strikeouts. The starting duo of Krizan and Kapala has been electric all season for the Bucs, helping them compete admirably in the brutal O-K Red Conference.

“Both (Krizan and Kapala) are very competitive, and they both throw similarly to one another,” Hansen said. “They throw a lot of strikes. Owen didn’t have his best stuff today, but when he had to make a pitch or get an out, he did, and that shows how smart and important he is on the mound.”

Some of baseball’s intangibles, like base running and fielding, are often overlooked. But it’s immediately evident when watching Bucs baseball that they are focused on all aspects of the game. They consistently create scoring opportunities by stealing bases, tagging runners and understanding the fundamentals of when to push for an extra base and when to stay put.

“The intangibles come with time and repetition,” Hansen said. “This team does a good job understanding what you can and cannot do on the base paths. They are starting to understand (positional awareness), which gives us the opportunity to do some more things because we know the players are going to make the right decisions.”

Grand Haven earned its first district title since 2017, and Hansen was pleased this group had the opportunity to lift a trophy.

“It’s really nice that this team earned a key victory because they played great baseball all year round, and this district trophy will be something they can look at all their lives,” he said.

The Bucs moved on to the regional semifinals Wednesday at 5 p.m., but their opponent has yet to be determined.

Bucs softball loses district finals

Grand Haven softball was also forced to play two games Sunday, defeating Mona Shores 10-0 in the district semifinal, and losing 5-2 to Reeths Puffer in the regional final.

After waiting helplessly as rain ruined both softball fields at Grand Haven High School on Saturday, the Bucs were ready to play Sunday against Mona Shores.

Madison Shumaker pitched a gem, stopping Mona Shores in their tracks with six spectacular innings, while also hitting a home run to help her cause. The junior ace also drew the start against Reeths Puffer, but she lost a little of the luster she displayed in the semifinal.

“(Madison) threw six great innings in Game 1, and we told her that she was going two games today because we are better all the way around with her on the mound,” said Grand Haven head coach John Hall. “She will be one of the best pitchers in the district next year.”

The Bucs fell behind early in the final, allowing five runs through the first three innings. And coming from behind was not where Grand Haven wanted to be with Reeths Puffer’s explosive Makayla Thompson on the mound. Thompson, a Kent State commit, mowed down Bucs batters early, setting the tone for a hard-fought game.

“Makayla Thompson is going to Kent State for a reason, but we have hit her in the past,” Hall said. “There were some small things that we failed to do that could have won us the game.

“I hate losing, but I don’t mind getting beat. Thompson was dominant today, but I’m so proud of this team. We haven’t been able to get over the district finals hump yet, but we will. Our time will come.”

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