The Hornets ran out of ways to win baseball games Saturday.
Woodhaven defeated Saline, 3-2, in the regional championship game. The Hornets finished the season with a 23-9 record. In the SEC Red they were undefeated, going 15-0, to win the title. Saline also won the district championship.
After a tense 5-4 victory over Plymouth in the regional semifinal, Saline and Woodhaven were scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning of their regional championship game.
Woodhaven’s Avery Carnicom cleared the bases with a double to deep centerfield to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead. For a Saline team that scratched and clawed for offense all day, the three-run deficit seemed imposing. But Cole Daniels singled with one out - his final contribution to the Hornets in a storied three-year varsity career.. Logan Evans doubled to left field with two out. Cal Daniels singled home a run.
The Hornets were down by run with the tying run on base.
Alas, it was not to be for the Hornets in this game.
Coach Joshua Reeves said the way the Hornets battled through the day mirrored the spirit he saw throughout the season.
“We’re really proud of this team. Through all the distractions and complications, and unexpected elements, we found a way through. We could have easily folded when we ran into the tough stuff, but that’s not the kind of team this is,” Reeves said.
The regional championship game was a pitchers’ duel in the rain between Saline senior Danny Weidmayer and Woodhaven’s Drew Szczepaniak. Weidmayer pitched brilliantly. He gave up three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven. Both pitchers were perfect through three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Noah Nelson led with a single past shortstop. He took second on a bunt by Reagan Miller and then went to third on a wild pitch, but Szczepaniak struck out the next two hitters to escape. Woodhaven threatened in the bottom of the fourth, with a lead off line double that eluded Alex Morrison in left. The runner went to third on a ground out to second. Weidmayer induced a shallow fly to Morrison in left for the first out and then struck out Szczepaniak for the third out.
Morrison led off the fifth with a double to left. Then he stole third. But Szczepaniak struck out the next two batters and got the third out on an infield grounder.
Woodhaven threatened in the bottom of the inning. Carnicom walked and took second on a bunt. The next hitter drilled a line drive to center. Vinnie Patteri sprinted and dove. He kept the ball from getting the gap and prevented a run from scoring. There were runners on first and third with one out. Saline’s coaches called for a pitch out and Cal Daniels caught Carnicom leading off third base and picked him off. Weidmayer escaped unharmed when the next hitter flew out to Miller in right.
The Hornets went down in order in the top of the sixth. Woodhaven finally got to Weidmayer in the sixth. It started an infield single to deep second base. Then another infield single, this time on a bunt past pitcher’s mound. The Warriors moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt. Weidmayer intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases. Weidmayer struck out Szczepaniak for the second out. But on a 1-1 pitch, Carnicom hit a curve ball to the fence.
Reeves said Weidmayer pitched an outstanding game against a talented team backed by a vocal student section.
“He threw the ball in a way that didn’t give the much to say. He kept the hitters off balance. They didn’t know what to expect. A lot of the strikeouts were backdoor Ks, kids were caught looking,” Reeves said.
Mancino’s Pizza and Grinders 3 Stars
- Danny Weidmayer – The Saline senior was masterful for all but one pitch.
- Logan Evans – Doubled and drove in a run.
- Alex Morrison – Doubled and stole a base.
In the opening game, Saline scratched out three runs on three hits and three errors and then rode pitcher Cole Daniels as far as they could take him. Unfortunately, when Daniels neared the pitch limit and came out of the game, things went haywire for the Hornets, and they needed clutch performances to win in extra innings.
In the second inning, Morrison led off with a single. He stole second and scored on a single by Evans. Paul Kiyabu singled to put runners on the corners. Patteri grounded out and Evans scored on an error. Nelson reached on an error and Kiyabu scored. It was the last time Saline scored until the eighth ining.
Meanwhile, Daniels kept the Wildcats at bay. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up one earned run on three hits and three walks while striking out five. Up 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Daniels gave up a lead-off single. A second Plymouth batter reached on an error, putting runners at first and third. Daniels got the next two batters on line outs to the infield.
Plymouth got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Plymouth had an infield single to third. The next batter singled to left. Plymouth scored when Saline’s catcher threw the ball into leftfield trying to catch the runner stealing third. Daniels got out of the jam with a fielder’s choice and a strikeout. Nearing the pitch count limit, Daniels left the game with two outs and a runner on base in the bottom of the sixth. Kiyabu retired the last batter of the inning on a groundball to second.
The Hornets took the 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Kiyabu retired the first batter on a pop up. The next batter reached on an error at second base. That was followed by a sharply hit double to left, making it 3-2. Logan Evans relieved Kiyabu. The first batter he faced bunted. Trying to throw out the runner at first, the catcher instead hit the runner in the back. Evans then appeared to have struck out the next batter to end the game, but his curveball bounced away from the catcher and the trying run scored from third instead. With the winning run on second, Evans got the next batter to fly out to right to end the inning.
Saline, which hadn’t threatened to score since the second inning, suddenly found life. Morrison started things by walking. He went to third on a single by Evans. Plymouth intentionally walked Kiyabu to load the bases.
Patteri stepped up and delivered a bouncer to short – but it bounced underneath the shortstop’s glove. Two runs scored. Saline led 5-3.
But the Hornets couldn’t breathe easy just yet. With one out in the eighth, Evans walked two Wildcats. Junior Ryan Steinhauer entered. He got one out on a pop up. Then he gave up a single to make it 5-3 and put runners on the corners. After throwing a ball, Steinhauer threw three straight strikes to strike out Every and end the game with the tying run on third and winning run on second.
Mancino’s Pizza and Grinders 3 Stars
- Cole Daniels – The game was completely in control with Daniels on the mound.
- Tyler Steinhauer – Steinhauer had the game on his shoulders and came up big, aggressively going after the last batter to end the game.
- Logan Evans – Evans and Kiyabu didn’t have much luck on the mound in the seventh and eighth inning, as everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. But Evans got a huge third out. He also went 2-for-4 with an RBI at the plate and was credited with the win.