Atlanta baseball wins school’s first district title

HILLMAN- The Atlanta baseball team not only beat their biggest rival on Saturday, they also made some history

The Huskies (22-2) topped Hillman 9-3 in a semifinal game and then earned a tight 5-4 over Johannesburg-Lewiston in the championship game to earn its first-ever Division 4 district title at Hillman High School.

The win advances the Huskies to a regional semifinal matchup against Onaway on Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie.

“It feels awesome (to win districts), I’ve never cried in my life, but when that last out came in, I couldn’t help myself,” Atlanta head coach Sean Barrett said.

Barrett had good reason to tear up: Joburg (18-8) was right in the middle of a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning that narrowed the game from a comfortable 5-2 spread to a nail-biting 5-4. The Cardinals were finally starting to hit the ball after being shut down by Jake Chambers for four innings.

Chambers gave up two runs in the fifth inning, before Atlanta put in Garrett Badgero, who had pitched well against Hillman.

As the Cardinals loaded the bases in the seventh and drove in two runs with only one out, Badgero ignored the pressure.

“I just try to play catch with my catcher and know that my defense is going to make the out. I trust my defense completely,” he said.

Atlanta caught a break on its second out in the seventh. Joburg’s Brad Kussprow singled between second and third with Alex Payne on first and Logan Huff on second. Huff got hit by the ball while running to third, an automatic out that stopped Joburg’s rally in its tracks.

“That’s what we’ve done all year, come back and pick up wins. We couldn’t get it done today, but it was right there and I give Atlanta credit for playing a great game,” Joburg coach Rick Guile said.

The final score reflected a tight, consistent outing by both teams. Atlanta picked up a run in the first inning when Josh Barrett drove in Brock Baum, but Joburg slowed down the Huskies offensively until the fifth inning.

Atlanta blew the game open in the fifth inning by picking up four runs off of two hits, three wild pitches and two first base overthrows. Quick base running by Badgero, Taylor Juergens, Jay Webster and Caleb Cumper took advantage of those errors to drive the score to a 5-0 spread that Joburg couldn’t quite overcome.

“It’s so great to finally settle the North Star situation with Hillman and to finally pick up a district win. We really earned it today as we beat two great teams that could have taken over at any point,” Barrett said.

Atlanta made it to the finals by taking out Hillman (20-5) in its first game. The two teams had split the North Star League title during the regular season.

Badgero pitched the whole game, facing 31 batters, striking out 13 and giving up six runs. He also picked up a double and a single.

Baum hit two singles while Taylor Juergens was 3-for-4. Jake Chambers hit a single and scored twice, once off an error. Jacob Dobbyn picked up three singles.

Kyle Hennigan pitched seven innings for the loss while Ty Jones came in on relief in the last inning. They faced 38 batters including nine in the seventh inning. They struck out six batters and gave up 15 hits.

David Julka picked up a huge RBI triple in the third that narrowed Atlanta’s lead to 6-3. Mike Klein, Dylan Ross, Mason VanPamel, Ty Jones, and Dylan Steinke all picked up singles. Klein, VanPamel and Ross scored.

Joburg picked up a 12-3 win over Gaylord St. Mary in the first round. Jake Newell pitched for the Cardinals, giving up one hit, two walks and six strikeouts. He had no earned runs.

Colton Huff picked up three singles while Huff picked up two. Payne had a single, a double and a triple. Cole Nagy went 3-for-5 while Kussprow was 2-for-4.

Eric Benac can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.