By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Catholic Central baseball team may or may not make a deep run in the state tournament this year, but the Crusaders sure seem unbeatable at the district level.

MCC won its ninth straight Division 4 district championship on Saturday, easily beating Vestaburg 15-0 in the semifinals and Holton 12-0 in the championship game.

The victory over Holton was sparked by a nine-run fourth inning that put the game out of reach.

Muskegon Catholic, now 18-9 overall, will have a major challenge on Wednesday when it hosts Beal City, the No. 1 ranked Division 4 team in the state, in the first round of regionals.

MCC pitcher Max Price reels back from the mound. Photo/Michael Banka

“The kids have been on my case to get more live batting practice in, so we imported one of my former players, and he’s been throwing every day, and our bats are starting to come alive,” said MCC Coach Steve Schuitema.

“Hats off to Catholic,” said Holton Coach Jim Giddings, whose team finished the season with a 14-7-1 record. “They put the pressure on us the whole time, and that makes it tough to play with them.”

MCC’s Max Price picked up the win on the mound, allowing no runs on one hit while striking out eight in five innings. Price also opened the scoring in the game with a two-RBI single in the third inning. 

“Max is one of the best pitchers in the area,” Coach Schuitema said of his star pitcher. “When he has control of his fastball and his curve, which he had today, he is pretty hard to hit. He wanted the ball and was pretty fired up to get the ball.”

MCC first baseman Dewey Modaff gets ready to make an out at first. Photo/Michael Banka

Price allowed only two runners in his five innings of work. The first was a two out double by Aidan Poling in the first, while the other was a walk to Carter Brant in the fifth inning.

The Crusaders led Holton 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, when their bats came alive. The nine-run explosion started off with back-to-back walks to Aiden Cook and Sam Kartes, then Nick Powell singled to drive in a run. A misplayed ground ball off the bat of Tommy Kartes plated another run. 

After back-to-back fielder’s choice plays that resulted in outs, MCC’s Gabe Johnson drove in a pair with a hit. Then Cook drove in a run, and Powell knocked in his second and third RBIs of the inning.

The Crusaders sent 13 hitters to the plate in the fourth.

Johnson and Powell paced the Crusader offense with a pair of hits and three RBIs apiece. Kartes finished with a pair of hits, and drove in a run as well.