The reason why predictions are so worthless is because they’re so easy.
A year ago, after the Saline High School baseball team lost a heartbreaking game, 7-6, to Warren DeLaSalle, it was easy to look at all the underclassmen and predict the Hornets would be back in 2017.
And at 9 a.m. Saturday at Michigan State University, the Hornets will take the field again, looking for that state championship.
I’ve spent the last 12 springs covering Saline and Blissfield baseball. I’ve watched the best teams -- the teams of destiny -- ended to soon, baffled by junkballing, no-name pitchers.
Win or lose, you savor your championship game experience, because you simply can’t count on coming back.
Last year, there were many great moments to savor.
Who can forget Saline leftfielder Ryan Foley’s amazing catch. DeLaSalle had just broken open the game with four runs in the second inning. And the bases were still loaded. That’s when Matt Held stepped up to the plate. According to the official scoring “Held flew out to left-center.” That doesn’t even begin to describe it.
It was a ridiculous catch from a never-say-quit kid. Without that catch, the Hornets are down 7-0. Because of that catch, they were able to climb back in the game. The catch was played all over the internet and even made ESPN SportsCenter.
Foley remembers the catch vividly.
“The dude hit it pretty hard in the gap so I had to get going. I left my feet and dove out and made a pretty good play,” Foley said. “We were down at the time, so it was good. It got our momentum going. We were able to tie it up and take the lead, but unfortunately we didn’t finish.”
The other giant moment was Sean O’Keefe’s massive home run to leftfield in the sixth inning. The Hornets were down 6-4. Zach Owings doubled. O’Keefe stepped up and delivered the first-ever MHSAA championship game over-the-fence homerun at MSU. From the crack of the bat, there was no doubt.
It’s a moment, like Foley’s catch, permanently engraved Saline baseball history.
“That’s a quality pitcher from DeLaSalle. I knew he had good stuff. It was 2-2. He threw me a hanging curveball and I did the only I was told to do: Hang it, bang it. One of the best moments of my life,” O’Keefe said.
The Hornets had their crack at a state title last year. They came up short, but made memories that will last a lifetime. Some of those memories are documented on Youtube, in articles and on social media. But most of those memories are between teammates and coaches on long bus rides, during rain delays or while working on Theisen’s field.
These Hornets did the improbable. They lost a state championship game and found a way to get back there this year. That, in itself, speaks volumes about this team – their skill and determination.
As O’Keefe went on to say about his memorable home run.
“It was one of the best moments of my life, but I would go 0-for-4 Saturday, with 4 Ks, but if we come out on top, that’s all that matters to me,” O’Keefe said.
It’s about winning for your teammates and coaches -- because that’s all that’s left. If that’s your rallying cry, then you can’t really lose.
As individuals, these Hornets have nothing left to prove. They’ve made the circus catches and hit the jaw-dropping home runs. They've signed the letters of intent to play college ball.
All that's left is playing for each other.