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Big second inning leads Northville past Hartland in regional final

Baseball   | Jeff Dullack

Big second inning leads Northville past Hartland in regional final

Going into Saturday’s Division 1 regional final, few teams in the state had swung the bats better than Northville since the postseason began, following the Mustangs’ 12-2 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the regional semifinal.

And while Hartland allowed Northville to score in just one inning, Northville’s bats again proved to be the difference on Saturday afternoon.

Behind a six-run second inning, Northville would knock off Hartland, which had won each of the previous two regional titles, 6-3 to advance to the Division 1 quarterfinal at Wayne State.

In the Division 1 quarterfinal, Northville will face Rochester, which topped Birmingham Brother Rice in its regional final on Saturday.

After heartbreaking exits from the playoffs in recent years, Northville head coach John Kostrzewa said that his team entered this season with plenty of motivation to make a run in this year’s state tournament.

“It’s extremely difficult,” he said. “We’ve lost many times, a couple of times, real close to Brother Rice, once on a walk-off, last year, we lost a tough one to Catholic Central in the district. The year before that, Brighton was ranked third, we were ranked fourth, we beat them a week earlier for the conference championship and we had to play them five days later in pre-district, so it had been a few years since we got to this point in the regional and this group was hungry to get back. Losing 1-0 to C.C. last year kind of gave them the motivation to get up at 5:30 and lift every day like we did all offseason and that kind of set the tone for what happens when you do things right.”

After Hartland struck first in the first inning on an RBI infield single off the bat of Drew Thompson, Northville would respond in the bottom half of the second inning.

An RBI single from Tyler Troyer with the bases loaded would first tie the game up at 1-1, and following a bases loaded walk to Christian Williams, back-to-back RBI singles from Nick Morrissey and Nicholas Prystash gave the Mustangs a 4-1 lead forcing a Hartland pitching change.

The Mustangs would cap off the inning with another bases loaded walk, followed by Aram Shahrigian’s sac fly to take a 6-2 lead into the third.

Kostrzewa said that after a first inning where his team was retired in order on just five pitches, he said he felt his team had a better approach in the second inning, while adding there was no panic for his team after falling behind early.

“I think sitting for two and a half hours, not taking BP or anything and then coming out, the swings were a little sluggish,” he said. “But them scoring in the first inning and then coming out and having a couple of bad at bats in the first kind of woke us up a bit. They’ve been real resilient all year long, we’ve been down by one run or two runs and whatever they (Hartland) had in the blink of an eye and everybody was extremely confident – they felt that with the way things have been going, we’ve been swinging the bats well for a couple of weeks and one through nine, they’re all confident.”

Hartland would not go quietly, however as the Eagles would plate a run in top half of the fourth to cut the deficit to 6-2 and in the seventh inning, Hartland would bring the tying run to the plate with two outs after Cade Martin tallied an RBI single to cut the Northville lead to 6-3.

Hartland head coach Brian Morrison said he was pleased with how his team battled after falling behind early and added that his team wasn’t able to come up with the key hit or two they needed to have a big inning of their own.

“We didn’t give up, the guys that came in to throw held them to six there for a long time and gave us a chance,” he said. “But they (Northville) did a good job of making pitches and making plays when they had to, but we couldn’t get anything rolling to have a big inning ourselves.”