Titans clinch Big North title with sweep of Wildcats

What started out as a day of great optimism on Friday, turned to one of despair for the Alpena baseball team.

The Wildcats began the day with a chance to win the Big North Conference title with a sweep over Traverse City West. The Titans however had other ideas and instead swept the Wildcats 2-0 and 11-5.

“We’re really disappointed in the outcome here. The effort wasn’t there in the second game,” Alpena coach Phil Schultz said. “We thought we were fired up and ready, but we were up 3-0 (in the second game) and we were still flat and we just let them get back in the ball game.”

The Titans (19-4, 12-0 BN) clinched the conference title in the opener after ace Walter Borkovich threw a three-hit shutout.

The Wildcats (18-5, 9-3 BN) drew a pair of walks in the seventh inning to put the tying runs aboard with one out, but Borkovich and the Titans’ defense got a flyout and a strikeout to end the game.

The early part of the game saw a pitchers duel between Borkovich and Alpena’s Mitch Skiba. Borkovich finished with nine strikeouts and walked six. Skiba had a good game in his own right, striking out eight and walking two while giving up two runs on six hits.

“We didn’t get a runner to third base that entire game. (He’s) a quality pitcher, he pitched well, I have to give him credit, tip my hat to him. Mitch pitched a great game too,” Schultz said.

West got on the board in the first inning after Donny Cizek walked and was later driven in by Trent McDougall for what proved to be the winning run.

The Titans added an insurance run in the sixth inning after an RBI single scored Max Ludka scored McDougall.

Offensively, Alpena went quietly until the fourth inning. With one out, Skiba and Brady Marwede each singled, giving Alpena a pair of base runners. West quickly neutralized the threat by picking off Skiba and tagging Marwede out after he tried to steal second base.

“We took ourselves out of one inning with some bone-headed running mistakes,” Schultz. “I would like to have known what would have happened had we not made those base running errors.”

Skiba and Nick Skiba each drew a walk in the seventh inning, putting the tying runners on base. Once again, West quashed the opportunity for a rally after Dylan Hoes flied to left field and Tyler Pintar struck out.

Marwede led Alpena with two hits.

With the Big North title in hand, the Titans rallied in the second game, scoring five runs in the fifth inning and six in the sixth inning. West was helped by several Alpena fielding errors during the game as well as a few wild pitches and hit batters.

Alpena got out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning after RBI singles from Marwede and Nick Skiba. The Wildcats added to their lead with a run in the third inning when Giulio Fantasia singled in Cody Tucker.

West scattered a few hits in the first few innings, before sending 10 batters to the plate in the fifth inning. West managed just three hits in the inning, but also benefited from two hit batters and an error. Collin Bush, Geordon Carter and Matt Kirkey each had RBIs.

The Titans sent 10 batters up again in the next inning and added six more runs. McDougall had an RBI double and Ludka and Keegan Kenny each had RBI singles.

“We should’ve had a double play ball, but we played the ball to the side and that opened the floodgates,” Schultz said.

The Wildcats found a bit of a spark offensively in their last trip to the plate, collecting two more runs with two outs. Andy Marwede had a two-out double to score Evan Hamp and one batter later, Fantasia singled in Marwede.

Fantasia led Alpena with two hits.

Alpena returns to action today at the Sault Ste. Marie Invitational.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.