By Steve Gunn
MUSKEGON – Nick Holt and his fellow seniors on the Muskegon Catholic baseball team have been flirting with state glory for three years in a row.
They made the Division 4 state semifinals in 2012 and the regional finals the last two years.
They have one more chance to get the job done, beginning with Saturday’s Division 4 district tournament in Holton, and they want to make the most of it.
That’s why Holt and fellow captain Anthony Woodard spent several days earlier this week composing and delivering personal letters to all of their teammates, pumping them up for the challenge ahead.
“It’s been frustrating considering we had a chance all three years and the team we lost to each year went on to the state finals,” said Holt, the Crusaders’ left-handed ace pitcher.
“That’s why me and Anthony sat down and wrote letters to each guy on the team, talking about what an opportunity we have if we play to our abilities and don’t lose any games due to a lack of focus or being down on ourselves.
“We think we have a special team and we think we can make a dent in this tournament.”
Holt is considered one of the best high school pitchers in the area, if not the state. The fourth-year varsity player is a two-time All-Stater who will probably win the same honors for a third time this season.
This spring he’s posted a sparking 10-0 record with an impressive 1.00 earned run average. His career pitching record is 34-3. Holt has also had a big year at the plate, hitting a sizzling .455 with a team-leading 45 RBIs.
He played a major role in helping the Crusaders to a remarkable 32-1-1 record this year and a Lakes 8 Conference championship. Now he wants to add a baseball state title to his resume before he heads off to college.
Of course Holt knows what it feels like to win a state championship. He’s done it twice, as the starting quarterback for the Crusader football team the past two seasons.
While he admits that was a thrill, he also says baseball is his favorite sport, and he would like to break new ground for MCC before wrapping up his prep career.
“If we can go to state and win that would be way more sigificant for the school,” said Holt, who will play for the Muskegon Clippers baseball team this summer before moving on to Hope College in the fall. “(MCC has) never went to a state final baseball game, let alone won one.
“It was pretty awesome for the football team to win back-to-back, but that’s been done before. If we can complete our goal that would be something everyone would remember. The class of 2015 would make history in baseball.”
Those sentiments are shared by the five other starting seniors on the Crusader squad, all of whom have made major contributions to the team’s success.
Zach Huston is 5-0 on the mound with a 1.27 ERA, has a .303 batting average and plays a great defensive second base. Anthony Woodard is hitting .432 with 27 stolen bases and a team-high 51 runs.
Zack Winzer is hitting .423, Dominic Woodard is hitting .309 and has played every defensive position on the field, and Griffen Seymour is hitting .296 while providing outstanding defense in the outfield.
As a group, the seniors have helped the Crusaders post a gaudy 87-5-2 record over the past three seasons.
“We may not have another senior class like this one, so we are hoping for the best,” said MCC Coach Steve Schuitema. “However it turns out, it’s been a great ride. All of our seniors, including reserve Tanner Johnson, will be headed off to college. Four of them – Holt, Winzer, Huston, and Anthony Woodard – will be playing college baseball.
“We will miss all of these guys terribly.”
The Crusaders will open Saturday’s tourament with a familiar foe, Holton, the team responsible for the loss and the tie that blemished their otherwise perfect record this season.
“Holton as always is very well coached and they have talented players who play both smart and tough,” Schuitema said. “That will be a tough task for us.”
Crusaders play at 10:00 Saturday at holton High School