Tue June 12, 2012
By Mike Penn
Chelsea seemed like an unlikely pick to reach the state tournament when the district brackets were announced. Coming into the tournament they were a sub-.500 ball club and they had to face a ranked Tecumseh team and a tough Adrian team. To say they were an underdog would have been an understatement. But the beauty of high school sports is that any team can catch fire and any team can win down the stretch. Chelsea did just that with dramatic comeback victories in the district and solid wins in the regional.
St. Joseph's route to the quarterfinals was no less than impressive. With a much better record, standing at 31-9 coming into state quarterfinal play, they had to get through top ranked Gull Lake and then ended up cruising through the finals beating Coldwater 14-1.
Tuesdays matchup did not disappoint as both teams played extremely hard and provided plenty of excitement. That excitement started in the first when Chelsea starter Logan Marable walked the first batter of the game. Usually a death sentence by pitching standards, this was clearly not the way they needed to start. Although Marable to his credit immediately gathered himself inducing a soft line drive double play and retiring the next hitter to leave the first unscathed.
Chelsea then carried that momentum into the bottom of the first when junior Alex Maloney hit a rocket off of the wall in left that missed going out be mere feet, driving in the games first run. Head coach Adam Taylor, who has made gutsy calls routinely throughout the playoffs, had senior Tanner Starkey squeeze scoring Maloney on the play. After one inning of play Chelsea was up 3-0.
The score would stay that way until the fourth inning when the Bears of St. Joseph's struck. Following a leadoff walk and and a steal of second, senior Taylor Hatfield singled in the Bears' first run. A good start to get things going for sure, but then what happened next sent the crowd into a tizzy. Senior outfielder Dylan Hammond rifled a homerun to left field knotting the game at three runs a piece and every fan got the sense that this was going to go down to the wire.
With a revived sense of energy in the stadium, Chelsea looked to quiet the Bears in the fifth. Chelsea put men on second and third early in the inning. With St. Joseph's well aware of a potential squeeze and ready to defend it, Chelsea's Tyler Geiger made a hard break to the plate. However it was a well timed fake and he induced a balk and both runners advanced. With Maloney now on third base, Adam Taylor once again called on Tanner Starkey to squeeze, which he executed perfectly. Chelsea was up 5-3 at the end of five innings.
With their backs against the wall, the St. Joseph's Bears rallied again to tie the score at 5-5 in the sixth. They utilized the long ball once again. This blow was delivered by another senior, Taylor Hatfield. Hatfield came to the plate facing Alex Maloney who was pitching well and throwing hard, touching 88 MPH at times. Hatfield jerked a Maloney fastball over the brick wall and left giving the Bears life once more.
Fast forward to the top of the 7th with the score still knotted at five runs a piece. With two men on and sophomore third baseman A.J. Montoya at the plate, St. Joseph was poised to deliver another blow and hoped it would be the decisive one. Montoya and Maloney battled with Montoya finally hitting a line drive over the left fielder's head plating the go ahead run. They finally had the lead and they weren't going to relinquish it.
What a game it was. Hard fought on both sides and very entertaining. It was a shame someone had to lose. Congrats to Chelsea on an incredible run. Congrats to St. Joseph as they continue on.