Niles rallies for first championship since 2011Published 8:31am Sunday, June 1, 2014
There were some weary arms on the Niles baseball team Saturday holding up the Division II baseball district championship trophy.
In 14 innings, the Vikings edged Edwardsburg, 6-5, to win their first district title since 2011.
Niles (24-11) advances to play in the Coldwater District winner in the Otsego Regional Saturday.
“I’m exhausted and I didn’t do anything except coach third,” Vikings coach Mike Vota said. “It was an emotional rollercoaster.”
“Good game,” Edwardsburg coach A.J. Gaideski said. “Our kids played great.”
Tyler Cutter’s single with the bases-loaded in the bottom of the 14th inning triggered a mass celebration on the Niles baseball diamond.
Jordan Ham walked to start the inning. Connor Glick then singled with a throwing error on the play, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Taylor Weldy was then intentionally walked, setting up Cutter’s clutch hit.
“It was unbelievable,” Vota said about Clutter’s hit. “Thank goodness the infield was up, which they had to be in that situation. He put the ball in play and that’s all we needed.”
Trailing 5-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Niles needed its bats to wake up.
The Vikings got their first hit of the game when No. 9 hitter Bryce Lake singled to start the sixth. That was the start of a five-run rally as Clutter had a two-run double and Tate Rudlaff tied the game with his two-run single.
After Clutter’s hit, Edwardsburg coach A.J. Gaideski removed starting pitcher Garrett Bronkema from the game. Over five and 1/3 innings, Bronkema allowed four earned runs, two hits and struck out six.
Edwardsburg pitchers Dalton Raymond and Joe Rabb then combined to go seven and 2/3 innings and allow eight hits and strike out 11.
“(Bronkema) got a blister,” Gaideski said about why he took out his starting pitcher. “We had to get him out of there.
“All our pitchers showed a lot of guts today. We had one bad inning and it cost us.”
Niles got outstanding pitching from Tate Brawley and Tate Rudlaff. Brawley went nine innings and allowed only one earned run and struck out 14. Rudlaff went the final five innings and allowed three hits and struck out four.
“(Brawley) got stronger as the game went along,” Vota said. “I think early he was a little bit up in the zone and tried to do too much. Then, once he let the game come to him he took charge and got better and better.
“Rudlaff did a fantastic job of coming in and throwing strikes. That’s an advantage of having another starter available that we feel real good about. We play really well behind him.”
Niles was sloppy at the start, committing five errors in the first three innings. That led to four of the five Edwardsburg runs being unearned.
“We started out real slow,” Vota said. ”We played tentative and started making errors.”
Niles also got off to a slow start in its 8-5 semifinal win over Dowagiac. The Chieftains scored four unearned runs in the bottom of the first and took a 4-1 lead. Mack Charles had a two-run single in the first inning.
Some wildness on the mound began to hurt Dowagiac in the second inning as Niles scored four runs on only one hit to take a 5-4 lead. Three Viking batters were hit by pitches in the second, two of those came with the bases-loaded. Dowagiac also walked two batters in that inning.
Ham’s two-run single gave Niles the lead for good at 7-5 in the third inning.
“If we don’t walk or hit those guys the game might be a different story,” said Dowagiac coach Dan Schuchardt.
“We put up some runs in the first inning and we put up some runs in the second inning,” Schuchardt said. “We battled and played a great game defensively. If we had a couple of more key hits we could have walked way with a W.”
Edwardsburg advanced to the finals after beating Paw Paw, 9-3.
Raymond, Jackson Gaideski and Derek Pierce each had an RBI single for the Eddies in a four-run first inning.
Raymond allowed no earned runs, five hits and struck out eight in picking up the win.
Division 2 District Baseball
Edwardsburg 203 000 000 000 00 – 5 5 4
Niles 000 005 000 000 01 – 6 10 7
Garrett Bronkema, Dalton Raymond (6), Joe Rabb (9-L) and Jesse Reinebold; Tate Brawley, Tate Rudlaff (10) and Connor Glick
Tyler Clutter (N)
Varsity records: Edwardsburg 23-8, Niles 24-11
Edwardsburg 420 000 3 – 9 6 2
Paw Paw 100 200 0 – 3 5 7
Dalton Raymond (W, 6-1) and Jesse Reinebold; Jeffery Burch (L), Kyle Williams (7) and Jay Doll
2B: Damion Pompey (E), Ben Robertson (E), Parker Marcon (P), Doll (P)
Varsity record: Paw Paw 14-14
Niles 142 001 0 – 8 4 3
Dowagiac 410 000 0 – 5 6 0
Tyler Clutter (W, 4-3) and Connor Glick; Matt Smith (L, 4-4), Daquan Brooks (3) and Austin Broda
2B: Glick (N)
Varsity record: Dowagiac 10-20