BASEBALL REGIONALS: Kyle Tepper delivers game-winning hit to lead Grand Rapids CC to a come-from-behind win over Holland Christian
HOLLAND — Kyle Tepper admits he kinda thrives on the attention.
So it was no problem when the Grand Rapids Catholic Central junior outfielder found himself under the microscope before delivering the game-winner in Wednesday’s 3-2 comeback thriller over host Holland Christian in a Division 2 regional semifinal.
After the Maroons elected to walk Myles Beale with the Cougars’ Joe Collins at second base and two outs in the the bottom of the seventh inning, Tepper clubbed the game-winning single up the middle.
Tepper had flied out in each of his three previous at-bats, but he was fine with the intentional walk to Beale and his chance to end the game.
“I was thinking it was my time to shine,” said Tepper, a .354 hitter who is among the team’s RBI leaders with 17. “We worked hard to get this done. I love spots like this.”
The win sends the Cougars (24-10) into Saturday’s 10 a.m. first round Super Regional game at Edwardsburg.
Holland Christian finishes 28-3.
Tepper’s clutch hit came off senior Chris Mokma, who earlier in the day was taken by the Miami Marlins in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Mokma, who may join his brother Mike on the Michigan State pitching staff next season, and GRCC’s Ben Joppich didn’t disappoint in what was expected to be a pitcher’s duel. Joppich, who entered the game with a 7-1 record and 0.82 ERA, allowed two unearned runs in the fifth inning for a 2-0 Maroons’ lead. Gabe DeBoer drove in one of the runs with a sacrifice, while the others were the result of botched bunts.
That lead stood until Beale’s two-run single in the bottom of the fifth.
Joppich, who said he tried to treat the game as business-as-usual, finished with a three-hitter while Mokma scattered seven singles.
“It was the same as any game,” Joppich said. “You just go out and try to hit your spots and not worry about your offense. I just tried to go out and trust the boys.”
GRCC coach Tim MacKinnon said he liked the matchup of Tepper vs. Mokma after the decision was made to walk Beale.
“I kinda knew that was going to happen,” he said of walking Beale. “It was a smart move for Jim (Holland Christian coach Caserta). It set up the force play. Tepper just sat on a nice pitch and drove it up the middle.”
The win comes on the heels of one of the program’’s most dramatic wins after beating East Grand Rapids, the winningest team in the state, in Monday’s rescheduled district final. Collins threw a two-hitter while retiring 20 of the Pioneers’ last 22 hitters.
MacKinnon said he wasn’t exactly expecting a mental letdown on Wednesday.
“It adds a little more emotion,” he said of the latest win. "We practiced (Tuesday) and didn’t talk much too much about it.”
Caserta, the only coach in Michigan history to win state baseball titles at two schools (Holland West Ottawa and Holland Christian), said the decision to issue an intentional walk was obvious, both defensively and due the fact Tepper was hitless.
“It set up an easy play at every base. We get a ground ball and we can go to any base,” Caserta said. "It was just a great play (by Tepper).
“We’ve won a lot of close games like this; we just didn’t win this one. Ben and Mokma both pitched well. They got a couple balls through that we didn’t. We just didn’t hit enough to win, but it’s also a credit to them.”