For seven innings, Logan Evans and the Saline Hornets put on an escape artist show that would have made Houdini proud. In the bottom of the eighth, the Hornets ran out of tricks and Woodhaven’s bases loaded sacrifice fly won the game, 2-1, and eliminated Saline in the regional championship game.
It was the second straight year Woodhaven ousted Saline in a hard-fought regional final.
Senior Logan Evans pitched seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on nine hits and a walk. He struck out four.
It was a difficult loss to swallow – made even harder because of the outlandish taunts from Woodhaven fans. The Hornets ran themselves out of a couple innings – getting thrown out at second twice on botched hit and runs/steal attempts. And it’s hard not to imagine what might have been, looking back to the fifth. Saline was down 1-0 with two outs and the bases loaded when Alex Morrison hit a hard line drive to left. Kolton Malinczak scored to tie the game, but Nate Watson, the potentially game-winning run, was thrown out at the plate.
On the other side, Evans and the Hornets did a remarkable job keeping a lid on the Warriors.
In the bottom of the second, Woodhaven singled and doubled to put runners at second and third with no outs. Evans got the next batter to pop out to first baseman Kyler Blake-Jones in foul territory. The next batter hit one back to Evans, who alertly realized he’d caught the runner a third in no-man’s land. Evans tagged him out for the second out – and eased a bit of the pressure. Evans got the third out when the next batter tapped one back to the mound.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Warriors struck first. Colin Czajkowski doubled to center. Evans struck out the next batter. Zach Phillips singled to put runners at first and third. Nolan Chilcutt bunted back to the pitcher, squeezing in Czajkowski. Evans got a ground ball to second baseman Brad Baldus to end the inning. Woodhaven led 1-0.
In the fifth, Saline finally lit up the score board. Jack O’keefe singled to left to lead off. Cam Daniels walked. Kolton Malinczak ran for O’Keefe and Watson ran for Daniels. Aidan Arbaugh laid down a bunt to move the runners to second and third. Noah Nelson then loaded the bases when he reached on an error by the short stop. Baldus roped a line drive straight at the rightfielder for the second out. Morrison followed with his two-out RBI single to left, scoring Malinczak. But the leftfielder, Chilicutt, made a great throw to the plate to beat Watson. Knowing he was beat, Watson tried but failed to avoid the tag by leaping over the catcher.
The inning was over with Saline still happy to have tied the game at 1.
In the bottom of the sixth, Woodhaven threatened again. Czajowksi and Avery Carnicom had back-to-back singles with one out Phillips hit a ground ball to shortstop Nelson, who tossed to Baldus, who relayed to Blake-Jones for the double play. The game remained tied.
Saline had a chance in the top of the seventh. Cam Daniels lined to center and then hustled to second, sliding head-first for a double with one out. Saline had the potential lead run on second. But the Hornets couldn’t cash in, striking out and lining out to end the inning.
The Warriors threatened in the bottom of the seventh. Chilcutt singled to right. The next batter bunted back to the mound. Evans spun and fired to second for the force, but the throw was off target. There were two runners on with no outs. A base hit could end the second. Ryan Szczepaniak hit one back to the mound. The quick-thinking Evans threw to third for the force. Evans got the next batter to fly out to Aiden Arbaugh. The subsequent battle grounded out to Evans, who threw to first for the out.
The Hornets put a runner in scoring position in the top of the eighth. With two out, Aidan Corrigan was hit by a pitch. Ryan Nichols pinch ran for Corrigan and he stole second. But Blake-Jones, who had differences of opinion with the home plate umpire all game, struck out looking.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Hornets had no luck. The lead-off hitter reached on a slow roller to Blake-Jones at first base. Czajkowski singled to center. Alex Morrison then dropped a fly ball to center. The baes were loaded. Blake-Jones took over on the hill. Phillips hit a flyball to deep center, allowing the Warrior on third to tag up and score.
It was tough loss because the Hornets knew they didn’t play they’re best. But it was a gutsy effort, and that made coach Al Zeiher proud.
“I was so proud of our guys. Today was not our cleanest game, but our guys never flinched. We talk about playing the next pitch, no matter what happened the pitch before. We embodied that today. We were in situation after situation where it looked like we could have given in and we stuck right there and had a chance for eight innings,” Zeiher said. “It just didn’t go our way, today.”
Zeiher was also proud of the job Evans did.
“He competed all day, even when (Woodhaven’s) fans were ruthless towards him. It’s really embarrassing the way they treated him today. But he responded. He did a great job,” Zeiher said.
The comments continued even after the post-game handshakes.
Saline finished the season with a 30-7 record and another district championship.