After a roller-coaster spring season that saw area teams become as proficient at watching the radar as judging pitches, the high school baseball postseason begins today with pre-district play.
That means a good part of the field will be eliminated, but it also means new hope for teams who struggled or played up a division and took their lumps going into games against schools more their own size.
“It’s the second season,” Owosso coach Kevin Moore said. “What’s happened before really doesn’t matter. You play until you lose.”
The Trojans (4-21-1) will try to keep playing starting today, when they take on Corunna (11-21) in a Division 2 pre-district at St. Johns.
The teams met in the regular-season opener at Owosso, with each team winning once.
“It was a nice split,” Moore recalled. “We had two good games with them.”
Not a lot else has gone right for the Trojans since.
“The season’s been tough,” Moore said. “We’ve had some injuries, and we play in a tough league (the Flint Metro League). But overall, I think we’ve improved. We have kids who throw strikes, and if we make some plays, we’re pretty good.”
Corunna coach Chuck Osika feels the same about his Cavaliers.
“We’ve won five of our last eight and are hopefully starting to turn things around,” he said. “We had a tough schedule early on. Our record doesn’t reflect the season we had.”
Rather than worry about the season past, Osika wants his team to narrow its focus.
“I’m emphasizing to my team that we’ve got to play to 21 outs,” he said. “We have to take them one at a time. Mentally, it takes a toll, and the team that stays focused for seven innings and makes routine plays will come out and win the district.”
Ovid-Elsie and Laingsburg will also play a pre-district game today at Laingsburg in Division 3. Teams that aren’t playing today, in many cases, have scheduled games for Wednesday to give their players a chance to play and break up what would otherwise be a stretch of more than a week without competition.
“To me, it doesn’t matter,” Osika said. “If we weren’t playing (today) we would have looked to play someone this week to stay fresh and sharp. It’s the luck of the draw. We’ve known we were playing in the pre-district for a month now.”
New Lothrop coach Ben Almasy feels the same.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “If we would have had a pre-district I would have been OK. You need to play, or you might come out flat. You have to stay on top of things, especially with the young guys we have on our team.”
Almasy’s team will get that opportunity Wednesday, when the Hornets host Marlette.
Division 2 at St. Johns
Schedule: Today — Corunna (11-22) vs. Owosso (4-21-1), 5 p.m. Saturday — Today’s winner vs. Alma, 10 a.m.; Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy (14-7) at St. Johns (9-19), noon; championship, 2 p.m.
Prediction: Alma, which has won two straight district titles, was hit hard by graduation in the offseason. That leaves each team with at least a puncher’s chance of ending the week with a district title.
Division 3 at Durand
Schedule: Saturday — Flint Hamady at Durand (14-8), 10 a.m.; New Lothrop (25-8-1) vs. Byron (14-14), noon; championship, 2 p.m.
Prediction: New Lothrop, which won a regional title last year, was also hit hard by graduation. But the Hornets have the best record against an improved schedule this season, having played seven conference champions in non-league games this season. That, Almasy says, should help his young team this postseason. “We’re similar to Durand and Byron. It’s going to be tough. If we get out of the district we might make a little run. But Durand and Byron are good teams.”
Division 3 at Laingsburg
Schedule: Today — Ovid-Elsie (13-14-1) at Laingsburg (13-14), 4 p.m. Saturday — Today’s winner vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (24-2), 10 a.m.; Bath (5-19) vs. Perry (17-6), noon; championship, 2 p.m.
Prediction: Pewamo-Westphalia is ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 3 and is the team to beat here. Perry, which just missed on winning a share of the Greater Lansing Activities Conference, has been on a late-season roll and that momentum could carry the Ramblers on Saturday. “I’m excited for it,” Perry coach Greg Hallock said. “You’re going to find out what you’re made of when you play really good teams. We know we have our work cut out for us, but we’ve got some good players ourselves. ” Laingsburg was swept by P-W earlier this month, but the first game was a 6-2 decision, which should give either the Marauders or the Wolfpack hope for Saturday depending on today’s result.
Division 3 at Chesaning
Schedule: Today — Saginaw Valley Lutheran vs. Hemlock (16-9-2) , 4:30 p.m. Saturday — Chesaning (17-13) vs. today’s winner, 10 a.m.; Montrose (14-13) vs. St. Charles (10-12-2), noon; championship, 2 p.m.
Prediction: Chesaning finished second in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference, but struggled in non-league games as late as Wednesday, when the Indians were swept by St. Charles. It’s a winnable district, but it won’t be an easy road.
Division 4 at Lansing Christian
Schedule: Today — Webberville (16-9) at Lansing Christian (2-24), 5 p.m.; Saturday — Dansville (10-15) vs. today’s winner, 10 a.m.; Morrice (5-19) vs. Charyl Stockwell (11-7), 12:30 p.m.; championship: 3 p.m.
Prediction: Webberville should win this, although Charyl Stockwell has a good shot from the other side of the bracket. Morrice’s rebuilding squad will get valuable experience for young players like freshman Todd Nanasy, who has become a key player this season for the Orioles.