By Andrew Johnson
GRAND RAPIDS – As the years go by, the players on the North Muskegon baseball team will have a lot to be proud of as they reminisce about the 2021 season.
The Norse won a district championship and a share of the West Michigan Conference title, set a new single-season school record for runs scored, and stole more bases in one season than all but one team in the history of Michigan high school baseball.
But none of that could guarantee success against a team like Buchanan in the Division 3 state tournament, and North Muskegon learned how good the No. 1 ranked Bucks really are when they lost a 9-0 decision in the opening round of regionals on Saturday at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.
The Norse finished their season with a 30-10 record.
“Anytime you get to this point, you’re going to see good baseball,” said North Muskegon head coach Steve Cutter about Buchanan. “I think we prepared well, but they’re a solid team at every position and that’s why they’ve lost only two games, to bigger schools.”
Both teams went scoreless over the first two innings, then Buchanan got five runs in the home half of the third inning to take a 5-0 lead. The first five batters in the inning reached for Buchanan, with Jack Branch, Macoy West and Murphy Wegner all picking up RBIs.
The score remained 5-0 until the sixth inning, when West ripped a two-run double to left center and Wegner added an RBI triple to right field. Deagan Huffman capped off a four-run inning with a RBI to give Buchanan a 9-0 lead.
Buchanan pitcher Matthew Hoover held the Norse to just three hits on the day, with Joe Duplissis and Troy McManus each picking up a single while Charlie Branch had a double. Hoover totaled nine strikeouts in the game.
“He was incredible,” said Cutter about Hoover, “He threw a lot of strikes and really kept us off balance. We weren’t able to get those hits and sometimes that happens.”
The Norse will be saying goodbye to seven seniors who helped put together on of the best seasons in North Muskegon baseball history.
“We were a senior-led team,” Cutter said. “I made sure to thank them after the game. They played for the front of the jersey.”