By Mitchell Boatman
NORTON SHORES — The past decade of the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association Tier 1 Baseball Tournament has belonged to the Mona Shores Sailors.
Entering this season, the Sailors had won seven of the last eight tournaments since 2012 — and finished as runners up the lone year they didn’t win in 2017.
That winning tradition continued with a dominant performance on their home field Saturday, as the Sailors topped rival Reeths-Puffer 8-1 in the championship game to win their third straight city title.
“It’s something we always look forward to playing in every year,” Sailor coach Brandon Bard said. “It’s taken us a little while to get going, but I think we’re just starting to hit our stride. I think this is the best baseball we’ve played yet, today. I’m proud of the way we played.
“It’s a lot of fun to coach these guys, especially the way they’re playing right now.”
Mona Shores took the lead early with a solid contact approach, capitalizing on a handful of errors by the Rocket defense to grab early 3-0 and 6-1 leads.
“In high school baseball, when you put the ball in play you’ve got a chance for good things to happen,” Bard said. “We just preached that we’ve got to compete when we get to two strikes and move the baseball. We did a lot better job of getting pitches early in the count and squaring the ball up today.”
Aaron Piasecki led the Sailor offense with three hits, including a triple, a walk, an RBI and three runs scored.
“It feels great,” the junior said of claiming another GMAA title. “I was seeing the ball really well today. The last few days in practice we’ve been challenged while hitting, that really helps when you’re working on a lot of things.”
Brady Rose was on the mound in the title game. He allowed no runs (R-P’s lone run was unearned) while pitching a complete game with seven strikeouts, four hits and one walk. He said the early lead was helpful in getting settled in on the bump.
“Getting a 3-0 lead is always good for a pitcher,” Rose said. “You don’t have as much pressure on you, you can just throw strikes and let people make the plays behind you. That’s what we did all day, threw strikes and let people behind us make plays.”
Mona Shores took an early lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Piasecki tripled to bring home Rose and later scored on an error. Jackson Hoffman singled later in the inning to bring home courtesy runner Brady Whalen.
Reeths-Puffer got one run back in the top of the second. Jaxson Whitaker reached on an infield single, then advanced to second on a throwing error. Whitaker came home to score on an error on a grounder hit by Kaleb Mitchelson in the next at-bat.
The Sailors tacked on three more in the second with a string of four consecutive two-out hits. Mason Brunworth doubled to start the rally, followed by singles from Rose, Piasecki and Pena to make it 6-1.
Mona Shores added single tallies in both the third and fourth innings on RBI singles from Brunworth, scoring Jason Anderson, and Mark Konecny, scoring Piasecki.
Brunworth and Reid McAvoy both had two hits for the Sailors.
Jeremy Ardshahi took the loss for the Rockets, pitching the first four innings. Ryan Barmes tossed a pair of scoreless frames with two strikeouts in relief. Whitaker, Mitchelson, Kaden Edwards and Connor Paugh all had singles for Reeths-Puffer offensively.
To reach the finals, Mona Shores topped Oakridge 11-1 in five innings and Reeths-Puffer beat North Muskegon 13-3 in five innings.
Mona Shores is now 10-5 on the season, while Reeths-Puffer sits at .500 at 5-5.