BROWN CITY — New Lothrop baseball coach Ben Almasy talked often in the last week about his young team, which features only two seniors.
The young Hornets ran into a Saginaw Valley Lutheran team that was senior-laden and talented, and that was the difference Saturday in an 8-3 loss to the Chargers in a Division 3 regional final at Brown City High School.
“It’s a learning day,” Almasy said after his team concluded a 28-10-1 season. “We showed we were a little young today, and that’s OK.”
The Hornets didn’t have trouble hitting Valley Lutheran starter and winner Nick Klein, who scattered 10 hits. But Klein also wiggled out of trouble when he needed to.
“He was locating the fastball on the outside, and when we thought it was outside, it was coming in,” said the Hornets’ Kollin Lienau, who was 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. “He did a good job. He had a nice curveball, too, and he kept us off-balance all game and kept us guessing. I feel we started to barrel him up, but it was one of those days where we hit it right at everybody.”
New Lothrop, meanwhile, made a pair of costly errors — only one of which was noted in the box score — which helped doom its chances.
The first came in the fourth, when Brady Birchmeier, who had come on in relief, tried to pick off the Chargers’ Mason Gengler at first base. The ball rolled to the fence down the first base line, and when first baseman Colby Hemgesberg finally corralled it, two runs were in as part of a five-run rally to make it 6-1.
“Brady was just trying to make a play,” Almasy said.
The other came in the sixth. With runners on second and third, Valley Lutheran’s Hunter Fehn lifted a high infield pop fly that landed between Hemgesberg and second baseman Matt Kieffer. One run scored on the play, and a second later scored on a sacrifice fly.
“They lost it in the sun,” Almasy said, matter-of-factly. “We don’t make that (mental) error and it’s still 6-2. We just didn’t get it done.”
The Chargers did, despite being outhit 10-6. They took advantage of six walks and two hit batsmen — four of whom scored.
Valley Lutheran laid down three sacrifice bunts in as many tries after breaking a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second with a solo home run by Kasey Appold.
“It’s a nice tool to have,” Chargers coach Kurt Hofmeister said. “It makes them field it and moves (runners) up. You never know. A base hit then scores two, and that’s huge this time of year.”
It was the second meeting of the season between the teams. They met three weeks ago in a tournament, with Valley Lutheran winning 3-1.
“I have the utmost respect for Ben,” Hofmeister said. “He’s a great coach, and I knew they would be well-prepared.”
“They’re a very senior-laden team, and you can see the difference,” Almasy said. “They deserved it. Their coach does a nice job. I don’t think we would have had much for Liggett. They’re at another level of play, but we’re trending in the right direction.”
There was no outward display of anger or emotion after the game. The Hornets quietly packed up their dugout and moved off the field, and minutes later they were eating and joking with each other, mirroring their coach’s no-bombast approach.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys coming back,” said Lienau, who was one of two seniors. “Losing the two seniors, we’re replaceable. They’re all great kids and they know each other. They’ll be fine for next year.”
NOTE: Valley Lutheran lost the super regional final later in the day against Grosse Point Woods University Liggett, 4-2.
Division 3 Regional Final at Brown City
Saginaw Valley Lutheran 8, New Lothrop 3
New Lothrop 001 001 1 — 3 10 1
Valley Lutheran 010 502 x — 8 6 2
WP — Nick Klein, Valley Lutheran (7 IP, 3 ER, 10 H, 3 K, 0 BB).
LP — Cam Orr, New Lothrop (3.2 IP, 4 ER, 4 K, 3 BB).
Hitters — New Lothrop — Brady Birchmeier, 3-4, 2B, 1 RBI: Kollin Lienau 2-4, 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI; Cam Orr 2-4; Jacob Graves 1-3, 2B, 1 R; Julius Garza 1-3, 1 RBI.