Holland Christian scores three in the sixth, defeats Linden, 8-5, in D 2 final
East Lansing – Often teams will be defined not by how well they play when they’re ahead but how they respond when they trail.
Holland Christian led 4-0 before the Maroons got a little cocky, took their focus off the task at hand and gave up three unearned runs in a five-run fourth.
Christian (36-6) implemented a dose of small ball to tie the score in the bottom half of the inning and used that same recipe in the sixth to defeat Linden 8-5 in the Division 2 championship game on Saturday at McLane Stadium on the Michigan State campus.
Mike Mokma survived that ugly fourth to go the distance and complete his senior season at 15-0.
“I got a little nervous,” Mokma said. “It happens. We got that over and got the win. I had renewed confidence after that.”
Mokma, who signed with MSU, struck out 14, two in each inning, one short of the state-final record. He allowed five hits and two walks.
Linden (29-10-1) sent 11 to the plate in the fourth and Brendan Buerkel started it off with a walk. Chris Kitch singled and, after two strikeouts, Cole Sarkin walked to load the bases. That was followed by a Jamon Link single that produced a run, two errors, a single and another error.
“The guys didn’t panic,” Christian coach Jim Caserta said. “We told the guys to focus on the ball.
“When the other team comes up with five, that’s a pretty big blow. When that happened we didn’t fold.”
Mokma’s younger brother, Chris, walked to open Christian’s half of the fourth and went to second on Chase Dreyer’s sacrifice. Dreyer then scored to tie the score at 5-5 on Brandon Riemersma’s single.
In the sixth Dreyer had a one-out double and Christian Keele was inserted as a pinch runner. Caserta was thinking ahead with that move and when Keele went to third on a wild pitch, the wheels were set in motion.
Riemersma laid down a suicide squeeze to score Keele and Riemersma reached base safely when the throw home was late. Josh Sterenberg reached base on an error and Mike Mokma followed with a two-run double.
Mokma retired the last 10 batters to close out Linden and give the Maroons their first state title.
Riemersma, the leadoff hitter, said it’s not often he’s been asked to bunt.
“That was my first (suicide squeeze),” he said. “Every single day coach, at the end of practice, would yell, ‘suicide’ and everyone would practice it.
“I knew it was coming. I was ready for it.”
Jake Shore went the distance for Linden and give up three earned runs, nine hits and two walks.
This was Linden’s second final appearance and first since 2004.
“It’s pretty special,” coach Steve Buerkel said. “We’ve averaged 25 wins over the last five or six years. We’ve won four districts in a row. People in our area know us. Now we got some state recognition.”