Baseball wins District championship

Mac Strobel

  At 5:45 in a slight drizzle, right fielder Trevor Fairfield positioned himself under a routine fly ball and watched it settle into his mitt. That final out secured West Ottawa’s District championship and allowed the team to relax for the first time all day.

  Going into District play on Saturday, the Panthers knew they had an excellent opportunity to win a championship. But neither Reeths-Puffer nor Mona Shores would make it easy.

  In the first game against Reeths-Puffer, the Panthers relied on clutch hitting to secure the win. The first of those key hits, and maybe the most important, came in the first inning with a double from Soph. Adam Dykens. With two outs and two strikes, Dykens went to the opposite field hitting a shot down the line, driving in Soph. Tucker Fritz from third base and a hauling Jr. Bryce Thomas from first. The hit gave West Ottawa an early two run lead that was expanded by a good overall hitting performance from the West Ottawa bats.

  But the Reeths-Puffer team also hit well, keeping the pressure on the Panthers until the final out. “There were a lot of innings toward the end of the game when Puffer had guys on base and the pressure really built,” Jr. outfielder Pete Vourlitis said. “It was still a really close game, but Sean [pitcher Jr. Sean Hoey] got a lot of key strikeouts to end those innings. Sometimes it felt like Puffer might take control, then Sean took care of them. We kind of underestimated them a little bit. They are a pretty strong team.”

  In the finals against a strong Mona Shores team that had just beaten Grand Haven 14-2 in a six inning mercy, the pressure remained. The nervous energy was partially relieved with a double from Hoey to set the tone of the game. The team also relieved some of the energy through loud support from the dugout.

  WO built a 5 run lead through RBI singles from Jr. Joe Sigler, Sr. Trevor Fairfield, Jr. Solomon Gray, and Soph. Tyler Bosma. Their 7-3 lead was held until the final inning when a determined Mona Shores team mounted a comeback bringing tension back into the game. In the final inning, Mona Shores scored three runs and got the tying run to reach base, putting the pressure on  pitcher Tyler Bosma, but the continued energy of the West Ottawa bench helped drive the team. “It was different. We were louder than any other game. The whole team was up at the fence the entire time,” Jr. Hunter Bedford said.

   Soph. Tyler Bosma pitched a complete game, giving up eight hits and five runs with three strikeouts in the narrow 7-5 victory. Jr. Bryce Thomas contributed four hits on the day.

  Next up for West Ottawa will be regional play at Hudsonville this Saturday at 12:30. They will be facing a familiar opponent in Caledonia. In their first matchup in early May, West Ottawa beat Caledonia in a game that required two extra innings. Caledonia earned their spot in the regionals with a tight victory of 5-4 over Byron Center and a solid win against Grand Rapids Union of 10-4. “We look forward to playing Caledonia on Saturday,” Hoey said. If the Panthers beat Caledonia, they will play the winner of the Hudsonville vs. Rockford game for the Regional championship.