Baker goes all 10 innings, Oliver gets walk-off hit and Hartland wins first state title, 2-1 over Portage Northern
East Lansing – The longest game in the history of the Division 1/Class A final also was one of the best.
Brett Oliver singled in Richard Bortle with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Harland a 2-1 victory over Portage Northern on Saturday at McLane Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.
Both teams were making their first final appearance and the game featured a number a wacky plays but most of all showcased two of the state’s top pitchers.
Hartland’s senior right-hander John Baker tossed a complete-game, five-hitter. He struck out 11, walked three and threw 132 pitches.
Tommy Henry, a junior lefthander, went eight innings and gave up one run on seven hits. He struck out eight, walked six and Henry labored more than his counterpart as he threw 151 pitches.
Bortle opened the 10th with a single and went to third on Thomas Rivet’s single. Oliver took the first pitch for a ball then hit a shot over right fielder Brett Benny’s head and his teammate almost immediately rushed the field.
“I was just running hard,” Oliver said as he was asked if he saw the ball land. “This is the biggest hit of my life. My teammates stuck together.
“The whole game I’d been struggling. We had plenty of chances throughout the game and left a lot of guys on, including myself. My thought was to get a good pitch and hit it hard, and in the outfield. That was probably the best pitch I saw today.”
Max Schuemann relieved Henry in the ninth and took the loss.
Oliver, the ninth hitter in the lineup, was 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts before his walk-off hit. Rivet was 0-3 with a walk and three strikeouts before his base hit.
Oliver faced a similar situation in the sixth when there were runners on the corners and one out. Coach Brian Morrison called for the squeeze, which Oliver failed to execute.
“We wanted him to get a good swing on it,” Morrison said. “He’s a senior. He’s had a couple of big hits for us this year.”
Hartland (28-16-1) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Alex Vydick led off with a walk, went to second on a sacrifice and came home on Baker’s double.
Baker had a fine game at the plate as well going 2-2 with two walks and a sacrifice.
Hartland left the bases loaded in the second and stranded two runners in the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings.
Hartland came inches short of ending the game in the eighth.
Max Hendricks opened the inning with a single then stole second. He went to third on a wild pitch and Rivet walked to put runners on the corners. Oliver popped out to short for the second out. Vydick, the leadoff hitter, hit a line drive deep down the left field line that was ruled foul. He ended the inning with a fly to center.
Northern (30-8-1) scored its run in the sixth. Schuemann led off with a single and went to second on a sacrifice. Brady Young had an RBI single and went to third on a throwing error. With one out and Collin Hall at the plate, a Baker pitch got away from catcher Max Cadman and when Young tried to score Cadman threw to Baker who tagged Young out.
“It was just a great game,” Northern coach Chris Andrews said. “(Henry) got into trouble a number of times and kept getting out of it. Their pitcher was really good. He kept getting that low, outside strike. When he got that over he was tough.”
Hartland reached the semifinals once before this season. That was in 2000, two years before Morrison became the head coach. Most years the Eagles have been formidable under Morrison. They just haven’t been able to get over the hump, until now.
Having Baker on the mound certainly helped.
“He’s won five games for us in the tournament,” Morrison said. “We took care of him all year and his pitch count wasn’t outrageous.
“We’ve been getting there. We’ve been competitive. You get here and anything can happen.”