By Mike Mattson
BATTLE CREEK – Muskegon Catholic freshman pitcher Nick Holt didn’t make many mistakes Friday in the Division 4 state semifinal against Decatur.
Holt walked No. 9 hitter Joby Kawaski to lead off the seventh and batter Theodore Rufo followed with a triple to left-center field. Kawaski scored on the hit and the relay throw from left field sailed into the Crusaders’ dugout allowing Rufo to cross with the winning run.
MCC went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh as the Raiders celebrated a stunning last-inning victory.
MCC coach Steve Schuitema felt bad for Holt, who pitched another gem after beating Beal City in last Saturday’s regional with a stellar 10-inning performance.
“(Holt) was fantastic,” said Schuitema, whose team’s dream season came to an end at 26-9. “He made a couple of bad pitches and they got a hold of them. He walked the No. 9 hitter and that was his only bad mistake.”
Decatur (35-6) advances to Saturday’s 9:30 a.m. state championship game against Grosse Pointe Liggett, which defeated Rudyard in the other semifinal.
Holt allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked one. Holt also had one of MCC’s two hits with an infield single.
Decatur pitcher J.T. Kawaski was equally tough for the Raiders, allowing two hits, striking out four and walking two.
The loss put the finishing touches on another standout season of sports at MCC. The football team lost a close game to eventual state champion Mendon in the playoffs, while the boys basketball team made a surprising run to the state semifinals.
The Crusaders appeared on their way to reaching the finals in baseball, too, until Decatur worked its last-inning magic.
Adam Callow knocked in Alex Lewandoski to give MCC a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
In the third, Connor Seymour reached on an error and scored when Dom DeTorres beat out a double play throw to first base.
Decatur pulled within 2-1 when Max Drenth reached on an error, advanced to third on a balk and scored on a single by T.J. Stambek.
Decatur outhit the Crusaders 7-2, with Rufo getting the biggest hit of the day.
After Kawaski walked, Rufo attempted one bunt before turning on a Holt fastball for his triple.
“I waited until I got a fastball,” Rufo said. “I waited for my pitch and I got it.”
Stambeck and Rufo each collected two hits to lead the Raiders.
Schuitema considered pulling Holt in the seventh inning, but decided to stay with his freshman ace.
“He had them off balance the whole day,” Schuitema said. “He had them tied in knots most of the game.”
The Crusaders were unranked this season and made their noise in the state tournament, especially with a tough win against Beal City and rallying to defeat Harbor Beach in the quarterfinals. And for six innings, they had Decatur on the ropes.
“At the end of the year we played our best baseball,”Schuitema said. “We just didn’t hit today. We like to play small ball, but you have to have base runners to do that.”