TROY – “It was a great day of baseball,” Rochester Adams varsity baseball coach Jeff Hall said with a wide smile at Troy Athens High School on Saturday afternoon.
The Highlanders (17-14) captured a district title with a 7-3 win over Avondale.
Unsurprisingly, Yellow Jackets coach Tom Kurczewski wasn't as happy with the day's events.
“We came in here and thought we were the best team and we probably played our worst game of the year,” Kurczewski said. “We had runners all over the place and didn’t come through with the big hit.”
In the district semifinals against Athens, Hall gambled and went with his No. 2 starter Jeff Turnbull, hoping he could save his ace, Sean Beyer, for the finals.
The move paid off when his team’s offense was able to get to Red Hawks starter Tommy Eng early in the game.
“We knew Tommy (Eng) was going to throw the ball hard, we were just hoping to get three or four runs, which we were able to do,” Hall said.
Adams' tough regular season schedule helped players prepare for a starter like Eng, who throws in the mid-80’s.
The Highlanders weren’t able to give themselves a cushion in the finals.
Avondale (26-9) scored in the top of the first on an RBI single from A.J. Susick. It added to its lead with a run in the third. Adams answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning and then grabbed a 4-2 lead with three runs in the fourth inning.
“They got ahead of us early and our kids just battled through it,” Hall said.
The Yellow Jackets kept getting men on base, but Adams’ pitchers limited the damage. Of Avondale’s 14 base runners, nine were left stranded in scoring position.
Late in the game, Avondale couldn’t capitalize on a bases loaded situation with only one out and its heart of the batting order up. Mitch Robinson hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3 in the sixth and Matt Andrus grounded out to end the inning.
Kurczewski’s team also committed an uncharacteristic amount of fielding errors.
During the regular season, his team had a .940 fielding percentage. He went as far as calling this year’s team “the strongest fielding team he’s had.” On Saturday, the team committed five of them, giving Highlanders too many free bases.
Adams senior Alex Borglin would give his team some insurance runs in the top of the seventh with a two-run bomb to centerfield. The homerun carried over the centerfield chance, ending any hopes the Yellow Jackets had of any late game heroics.
Beyer pitched five and third innings for the win. Nick Balsei came in the game in the sixth for the save.
Adams advances to the regionals on Saturday and will play the winner of White Lake Lakeland and Holly. The game will be played at 12:30 p.m. at Hartland High School.