By Steve Gunn and Andrew Johnson
The Eagles were supposed to play their Division 2 state semifinal game against powerful Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at 2:30 p.m. But a steady downpour delayed the game by 3 1/2 hours, and the first pitch didn’t occur until 6 p.m.
Once things finally got rolling, Oakridge hung in for three innings against St. Mary’s, which came into the game ranked second in the state. But the final three innings didn’t go so well, and the Eagles dropped a 10-0 decision in six innings at Michigan State University’s McLane Baseball Stadium.
Oakridge, the last Muskegon area team standing in the state tournament in any sport, finished the season with a 26-8 record, a West Michigan Conference championship. and Division 2 district and regional titles.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, now 33-9-2 on the season, advances to Saturday’s Division 2 state title game.
Veteran Oakridge coach Brandon Barry did not blame the long weather delay for the loss – but he said it didn’t help things, either.
“It was horrible,” he said. “You got to get (the games) in. I know where the state is at with that.But to have five hours sitting around with really no place to go, you get stiff, and it would’ve been nice to be in one of the earlier games. You could’ve walked out and got your warmups and got right at it. Both teams came out and had good energy. But it’s hard to sit that long.”
The first three innings of the game were competitive due to the tough effort of Oakridge pitcher Koleman Wall, who gave up seven hits and struck out four in four innings.
Wall gave up a run in the first inning on an RBI sacrifice fly by St. Mary’s Jack Crighton, but held the Eaglets off the scoreboard in the second and third innings. He left two St. Mary’s runners stranded in the second, and retired the side in order in the third.
But St. Mary’s finally broke through in the fourth inning, scoring three runs on an RBI double by Ryan DuSang, and a two-out, two-run double by Alex Mooney to take a 4-0 lead.
Wall gave up seven hits, struck out four and walked three.
“I thought he threw the curveball really well to start out, which helped him start out on top of them,” Barry said about his starting pitcher. “Through three innings I felt pretty good. They got the one run early and then he kind of settled in.
“He had the injury (took a foul ball off his bat into his eye a few weeks ago), and I think he got a little tired in the fourth. They just started to hit the ball. They’re a good team, but I was proud of how he gutted it out.”
The Eaglets greeted Oakridge reliever Ethan Miller with four straight hits in the fifth inning and added four more runs to take an 8-0 lead. The big blast was a two-run triple by Cole Sibley.
St. Mary’s capped off the game with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to invoke the mercy rule.
Mooney and Sibley each had three hits and three RBI’s for St. Mary’s, which piled up 15 hits in the game.
The biggest problem for Oakridge was St. Mary’s pitcher Logan Wood, a junior standout who is committed to pitch for the University of Michigan. The lefty struck out 10 while allowing only two hits, two walks and one hit batter in the shutout victory.
“He did a really nice job,” Barry said about Wood. “I think we needed to get into his rhythm a little bit. But he did such a good job of throwing curveball on the outer half of the plate. We just didn’t get to him with that pitch, and I’d say two-thirds of the at-bats he was on top of us and he had good pop today.”
Kolbe Stewart had the biggest hit of the day for Oakridge, a two-run triple over the right fielder’s head in the second inning. Jon Terpenning added a single for the Eagles.
When all was said and done, Barry expressed great pride in his players.
“We were conference champs, and you know this is only the fourth time in school history we’ve been down to the final four,” the coach said. “I take away that we got great battlers at Oakridge and we don’t like to lose. As bad as that slid away from us from the middle of the game on, every kid had tears in their eyes and didn’t want to be done.”