By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – “It feels a lot better to win, obviously,” said Muskegon Catholic Central catcher Jacob Holt with a laugh.
He was referring to his team’s impressive 11-0 five-inning victory Saturday over Oakridge (12-3-1) to claim the 2014 Greater Muskegon Athletic Association Tier 2 county baseball title.
Last year’s result wasn’t nearly as satisfying. In fact, last year was downright terrible for the Crusaders.
Then-sophomore pitcher Nick Holt, Jacob’s brother, was pitching a no-no in the semifinals when he hyper extended his knee. Likewise, teammate Dom DeTerres, who broke his foot the day before.
Oh, and standout Alex Lewandoski was at a football camp.
And suddenly the Crusaders were left without three of their biggest bats heading into the finals.
Still, MCC lasted 10 innings before falling 2-1 to Holton in the title game.
So, this year offered a chance for redemption, and the Crusaders didn’t shirk that responsibility. And both Holts, as well as the rest of the Crusaders’ arsenal, brought their ‘A’ games against the Eagles.
MCC (15-1) held on to the 3-0 lead heading into the third when they erupted for eight runs, led by Jacob Holt’s three-run shot over the center-leftfield wall, a powerful poke that is Holt’s third homer of the year.
“You can’t be thinking about it,” said Holt of his hitting process. “You just have to hit line drives and if it goes out, in goes out.”
Crusader head coach Steve Schuitema said while it’s been the hard-throwing Nick Holt who has garnered most of the attention, suddenly it is Jacob making the headlines. “The umpire after our first game said,” relayed Schuitema, ““That’s quite an All-State catcher you got.” That wasn’t talking about his hitting. That was about throwing two guys out on the bases and picking a guy off at first. He’s special. His brother (Nick) has gotten all the notoriety for most of the years. And now it’s been Jacob’s turn a little bit.”
But brother Nick’s performance on the mound was nothing to scoff at after sitting down his first 11 batters, and surrendering just two hits across five innings of work.
“Nick didn’t overpower them out there,” said Schuitema. “We played really good defense, I think, some timely hitting, some good base running for the most part.”
He later added, “That’s about as good as we’re going to play against a quality team.”
Jacob was impressed with the way his brother threw the ball.
“You know we won’t be giving up a lot of runs when (Nick) pitching,” said Jacob. “So that’s good to have confidence in there. Then all of us batters come with confidence because we know we don’t have to fight for runs with him in there.”
Oakridge head coach Brandon Barry said he knew that if the Crusaders didn’t follow the script, it could make for a long afternoon.
“We didn’t get on the mound what we wanted,” said Barry. “We were aware we were going to need that good performance (from the pitchers).”
Barry thought he could rotate a few pitchers through to keep MCC off balance. And though they were able to hold the lead to manageable levels through two, in the third the dam just broke.
Coming in though, the Eagles looked like they could give MCC a challenge.
“We haven’t played down that much before,” said Barry. “We’ve had games with one run, two-run deficits and fought back. I thought when (MCC) jumped all over us, I thought we put our heads down a little bit. That’s what we talked about after the game. That’s a very good baseball team here.”
Schuitema said his team has been working toward a city title since last year’s loss.
“This is one we’ve been shooting for all year,” said Schuitema. “This is definitely a tournament we wanted to win.”
The Crusaders notched 14-1 victory over Western Michigan Christian in the Saturday’s opener, and then got revenge over Holton, beating the Red Devils 4-3 in the semifinals to advance.
Oakridge notched two narrow victories to get to the finals, a 6-4 win over Ravenna and a 6-2 eighth-inning victory over Montague in the semifinals.