By Brendan Samuels

HART – An opening inning of mishaps proved to be too much for the White Cloud baseball team on Wednesday, as they fell to Benzie Central, 5-2, in regional semifinals action.

“Getting down by three runs, giving up three errors and having to get outs was awfully tough in that first inning,” White Cloud coach Kelly Mahn said. “We had an umpire with a tight strike zone and both teams had to play with that. We made too many errors and the boys are better than that.”

With senior Mason Reuther on the mound to start the game, Benzie Central took advantage of a lapse in play by the Indians. Reuther gave up just one hit, but two fielding errors, two walks and a few wild pitches left White Cloud in a quick deficit.

The Huskies batted around in the opening inning.

Landyn McGowen celebrates a home run. (Photo/Brendan Samuels)

“The boys hit the ball well, but we just couldn’t string them along,” Mahn said. “You need to string base hits together because one base hit in an inning just isn’t going to cut it. The ball seemed to find its way to their fielders. I give all the credit in the world to Benzie, they’re a good team.”

White Cloud broke through in the bottom of the second. Reece Hewitt singled to right field. Landyn McGowen stepped up next, slamming a ball over the center field fence for a home run and closing the lead to 3-2.

The Indians did well to hold Benzie Central at bay the rest of the evening, surrendering just one additional run heading into the seventh inning. Unfortunately, White Cloud managed just three hits over that period.

In the seventh inning, things got a bit more interesting. After allowing the Huskies to score a run in the top of the seventh, White Cloud had one chance remaining. 

After an attempted bunt from the Indians’ leadoff hitter ended in a pop-out, Benzie Central walked Jayden Robinson and KJ Strait back-to-back. That brought Reuther up to the plate with two men on base. Reuther popped out to the second baseman. 

“I give credit to the boys for not giving up,” Mahn said. “When we can get our No. 2 hitter to the plate to tie the game up with one swing, I’ll take that any day of the week. A base hit right there would have been nice.”

With two outs, Alex Cruzan delivered a line drive double into right field, scoring Robinson and putting runners on second and third.

Mason Reuther delivers a pitch for White Cloud.  (Photo/Brendan Samuels)

Mason Cruzan stepped up and made contact on a ball that was mishandled by the Huskies’ third baseman. Still, he managed to regroup and make a throw to first, where Mason was called out – much to the disdain of fans close to the play.

“Alex Cruzan came up with a line shot to the left center fence and that was another great hit,” Mahn said. “A close play at the end of the game decided it, but the boys didn’t give up.”

Benzie Central’s Dan Wallington was solid on the hill for the Huskies. Wallington pitched a complete game, allowing seven hits and three earned runs on three walks and eight strikeouts.

For White Cloud, it brings an ending to an impressive season that saw them go 23-11-1 and earn their second straight district title. Mahn couldn’t have been happier with the way his team performed.

“It was a great year playing in the CSAA for the first time with big schools,” Mahn said. “We’re the smallest school of the 11 in the conference and we finished fifth. Three all-conference kids, district champs two years in a row and now we drop back down to Division 4 next year. I have four returning seniors that’ll be four-year starters and we have a great nucleus of kids, so I look forward to next year.”

Landyn McGowen watches the ball leave his bat (Photo/Brendan Samuels)

Mason Reuther makes a throw toward first base (Photo/Brendan Samuels)