SAULT SAINT MARIE-The Atlanta baseball team (24-2) held off a tough Norway team on Saturday to pick up a 2-1 win in their regional finals, winning their first ever regional championship. They move on to face Maple City Glenn in the quarterfinal games in Traverse City on Tuesday.
“They were the toughest team we’ve faced all season. By far. I always said we had the best defense but we come in second to them. But I always say if we play strong defense and come out hitting, we can beat any team out there,” Atlanta coach Sean Barrett said.
The win for the Huskies came in spite of starting pitcher Jake Chambers’ ejection from the game on a rough play at home base during a second inning rally with two outs. Atlanta had the bases loaded and Chambers ejection ended the inning, stranded all the pitchers and took out the Huskies second best pitcher.
Backup pitcher Josh Barrett had to come in to pitch in the second and to last through the fourth inning so that ace pitcher Garrett Badgero could play the last three innings of the game.
Barrett had just pitched three or four games all season and hadn’t pitched a game in a month. However, he struck out four batters, gave up three hits and two walks and hit Garrett Bonetti. Bonetti advanced to third base off a hit by John Grayvold Jr., but was left stranded.
Barrett’s solid pitching in a stressful situation and the Huskies solid fielding of hits kept Norway scoreless through the fourth.
“We just kept battling back and didn’t quit, we all stayed strong after losing Jake and stayed focused on doing what we needed to do to win,” Barrett said.
Norway’s pitchers gave the Huskies a run for their money. Starter Danny Vivio had a side arm pitch that struck out Atlanta’s first three batters and held them scoreless for two innings.
In the third, Atlanta’s Caleb Cumper got on first after a dropped ball on the strike out. Although the next three batters were retired, Cumper was able to steal enough bases on passed balls to score the first run of the game.
Norway’s defensive strength in the field and continued solid pitching from Vivio and Mike Faull kept the Huskies struggling to hit and score. Badgero picked up his first hit of the game in the fifth and was driven in from second by Taylor Juergens to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead.
Juergens continued to be a vital catcher for Atlanta by snagging a foul fly in the sixth to end the inning. Mike Faull had just scored Norway’s first run and the team had just loaded the bases off a Taylor Bonetti walk, a Billy Bourg single and a Vivio walk.
“It feels great, it’s the best feeling in the world, to be the first regional team for Atlanta (baseball). We just tried to stay pumped up and focused and not let anything get to your head while you play,” Juergens said.
Badgero pitched a solid three innings for Atlanta, striking out the first three batters he faced, giving up only two hits and giving up no earned runs.
“Jay Webster did an amazing job in center field tonight, he fielded a lot of great catchers and stopped a lot of potential hits from turning into runs,” Badgero said.
Atlanta reached the championship by beating Onaway 3-0. Badgero pitched seven innings, striking out 10, including three in the sixth, giving up three hits and two walks.
Badgero also picked up two triples and two RBIs. Juergens picked up two singles while Jacob Dobbyn picked up a single, a double and a run. Webster picked up a single and a run while Cumper picked up a single and a run.
Andrew Prow pitched all seven innings for Onaway. He struck out seven hitters, gave up seven hits and only two earned runs. Prow also picked up two singles. Tommy Auger picked up a double.
“Andrew pitched a great game for us but Atlanta’s a great team. We hurt ourselves a lot of the time, squandered a lot of opportunities and Badgero really beat us tonight picking up those two RBI singles and pitching a great game,” Onaway coach Mike Crull said.
Norway beat Rudyard 8-1 in their first game to make it to the championship matchup. Norway held Rudyard scoreless until the bottom of the seventh when a Rudyard rally put on their only run of the game.