By Nate Thompson
But the Crusaders can dare to dream about going back-to-back, due to the championship pedigree that shines on so many at the school, thanks to state title runs on the gridiron and diamond.
It radiates the brightest on senior Jacob Holt. The slugging 6-foot, 240-pound catcher is a proven champion.
He helped the MCC football team win a third straight Division 8 state championship in November as an All-State lineman. And last June he turned in arguably the most impressive performance of his athletic career when he went 3-for-4 with five RBIs in the state championship baseball game.
The Crusaders beat Cedarville 10-8, despite being outhit 17-10.
“They had 17 hits, but they weren’t consecutive hits,” Holt said. “There was a hit here, a hit there. But we made a lot of big plays in the field and had some timely hitting, especially at the end of the game.
“It was very cool to (have five RBIs) on that stage,” he added. “I just went into that game thinking that all I had to do was perform the best that I could.”
Holt finished his junior campaign hitting a stellar .402, with three home runs and 44 RBIs. He was a key performer on a squad that finished a remarkable 39-1-1.
“He’s been a four-year starter and even as a freshman, he’s never been shy,” said MCC Coach Steve Schuitema, whose team is off to a very good 11-2 start, with a 4-0 record in Lakes 8 Conference play.
“But it’s been fun watching him grow as a player these last four years. Now he’s unquestionably our leader. Everyone knows it. He’s a 3.9 (grade point average) student, and he’s getting a lot of (scholarship) money to attend Aquinas and play baseball.
“He should have been All-State (in baseball) last year, but he was hurt a little bit,” Schuitema added. “But this year, as he goes, we’re going. And he’s going to lead the way with his bat.”
Schuitema says his team has a lot of potent bats to complement Holt. Center fielder Cole Charlesworth had a five-hit performance in a doubleheader already this season, while third baseman Noberto Vazquez has a four-hit game under his belt.
Another key for the Crusaders this year is pitching. They faced the difficult challenge of replacing Holt’s older brother, Nick Holt, who is now playing baseball at Hope College.
But they have plenty of other arms to pick up the slack.
“Not one person could replace what he brought to the mound,” said Jacob Holt, who caught while his brother pitched a complete game victory in the state finals last year. “It’s going to be by committee.”
Schuitema has the utmost confidence in junior Devin Comes, who threw a one-hitter in the Crusaders’ state semifinal win over Ubly last spring. MCC is also relying on the talents of senior hurlers John Sanocki and Robbie Bridges to go deep into games.
“We won 39 games last year and Nick won only 11 or 12 of those,” Schuitema said. “So we’ve got some kids who won some games for us, and we’ve got the rest of the staff back except for Zach Huston.”