By Aaron McClorey
NORTH MUSKEGON – It’s been a long time since the North Muskegon baseball team won a district championship.
But the long drought ended in impressive fashion on Saturday when North Muskegon rolled to a pair of victories, including a 13-2 win over a very good Montague team in the championship game, to capture a Division 3 district title on their home field.
The Norse, 29-9 on the season, now move on to regional play next week, and aren’t afraid to say that they have bigger goals than a district title in mind.
“I’m so happy for the school and the boys – it’s great,” said North Muskegon Coach Steve Cutter. “But we’re not done. We had a goal to get to (the state finals at) Michigan State, and we still talk about it. This is one of those steps that we’re continuing to take towards that.”
The Norse started the game by batting around in the top of the first inning, scoring six runs and capitalizing on four Montague errors. Alec Cutter started off the scoring and Denny Belmonte knocked home two more runs. Three more scored on errors, and the Norse had a substantial lead heading into the second.
While the hitters were at work in the first inning, starting pitcher Charlie Branch set the tone for the defense, getting through the first two innings unscathed while only allowing one walk.
“He’s been our ace all season, and has pitched well in so many games for us,” Coach Cutter said. “We were more focused on our hitting coming in because we knew we could count on Charlie.”
The Norse got another run on an RBI groundout from Shamus Corbett in the top of the third inning to extend their lead to 7-0. In the top of the fourth, the Norse went on another tear, scoring five more runs and padding their lead to 12-1, with Belmonte and Corbett each adding RBIs to their totals.
Montague got its first hit off Branch in the bottom of the fourth and broke the shutout.
Each team scored a run in the ensuing innings, but in the bottom of the fifth Branch got Montague’s hitters out 1-2-3 to end the game by mercy rule.
Branch struck out seven batters while allowing two hits and three walks. Belmonte had a three RBI game while Corbett finished with two.
For the Wildcats, Trey Mikkelsen pitched the first three innings while Owen Petersen took the last two in relief.