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No. 1 North Muskegon baseball team remains resilient in absence of home field

‘The Shipyard’ is no more, but Norsemen tradition continues to build with another 30-win season.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark (CLICK HERE for complete photo gallery)

MUSKEGON –With “The Shipyard” plowed and being converted into a multi-use/soccer complex adjacent to Fred Jacks Memorial Field, North Muskegon’s baseball team has turned up the traveling music.

The Norsemen have not had a home field this season, but that has not stopped them from doing remarkable things: Another 30-win campaign and the No. 1 ranking in the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Division 3 poll.

“It shows a lot about our culture and how you can put us in any position and we’ll still get after it,” North Muskegon senior leader Ben Meyers said.

North Muskegon’s squad made its shortest road trip of the season Thursday afternoon with a state tournament tune-up against neighboring rival Reeths-Puffer. Trent Reichert’s two-run, walk-off home run in the ninth inning lifted the hosting Division 1 Rockets to a dramatic 3-1 victory over the Norsemen.

“I think we just think back to what our goal is. Even today, you know, we got beat but we put a freshman in a big situation and he was able to throw it over the plate and that’s what we needed him to do,” North Muskegon senior Ryan DeLora said.

“I think that says a lot, too, just about our season, our mindset. Everything is just a learning opportunity. Even traveling there and stuff, that just shows that we’re going to learn from it and get better because of it.”

For practices most of this season, North Muskegon (30-5) has traveled to Fruitland Township Park. More recently, the Norsemen having been holding their practices at Muskegon Community College’s field.

Resilience has been the name of the game for the Norse. They’ve displayed it during games, such as when they trailed host Hamilton 7-3 after five innings in the Hamilton Tournament title game last Saturday but rallied for one run in the sixth and erupted for eight in the seventh to win, 12-7.

North Muskegon went unbeaten again in the West Michigan Conference Rivers Division at 12-0. The Norsemen have a few regular-season games left on the slate, but they’ve been gearing up for another state tournament run.

North Muskegon takes on Kent City in the Division 3 district semifinals at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at Montague. The winner of that game gets the Montague/Ravenna victor in the district finals at 3 p.m.

Last year, North Muskegon amassed a 35-6-1 record en route to an appearance in the Division 3 regional finals, where the Norse suffered a 7-0 loss to Lansing Catholic at Cornerstone University.

“We just learned that we’ve always got to bring it, especially now being (ranked No. 1),” DeLora said. “Like coach always says, everybody is always bringing their best, even if it’s not their best arm, they’re going to bring their best. We’ve got that chip on our shoulder and so we’ve got to bring that energy all the time.”

Said Meyers: “There’s a lot of people who were at that (regional finals) game last year, they know how fast it could end. It takes one good outing for one team and one bad outing for the other team and it’s over.”

Even though this year’s team is young with only two seniors, North Muskegon does have perspective and experience.

The Norsemen are learning that some things cannot be controlled, so they try to focus on what they can control.

North Muskegon freshman pitcher Cameron Hurst was thrust into a pressure situation against a tough Reeths-Puffer team (21-6), taking the mound after a dominant performance by DeLora, who allowed one run on seven hits with 11 strikeouts and one walk in 7 1/3 innings.

When Hurst surrendered the game-winning long ball to Reichert, a strong and veteran hitter, Moyer greeted Hurst before the teams formed their postgame handshake lines. Moyer patted Hurst on the chest and gave him a hug, letting him know everything would be all right.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Nobody’s ever improved without testing limits and facing adversity, and that’s what the Norsemen have done this season be it their decisions or not.

“We call it AQ: It’s adversity quotient and I think ours is very high,” Moyer said. “I think we’ve been through a lot together. I’m extremely proud of the kids for sticking together, and we honestly really don’t talk about it a whole lot.

“I was talking to somebody the other day, it’s like a sandlot mentality. I mean, we’re just excited to be able to play baseball. We’ve been putting L-screens in the back of pickup trucks, we’ve been going to fields and making sure we get to play.”

The leadership of Meyers and DeLora has been instrumental, according to Moyer, whose squad has featured four sophomores and three runs in the starting lineup.

Coming off the 2023 season when the roster featured several seniors, Meyers and DeLora have set the tone and helped the younger players get up to speed. Both of the Norse seniors are headed to play college baseball — Meyers at Davenport University and DeLora at Lansing Community College.

Moyer said that Meyers and DeLora are both very smart, high-IQ players as well as “extremely mature kids.”

Opponents respect the Norsemen and what they’re doing, too.

“I feel for them. I can’t relate because I have this field,” Reichert said, looking out over the field at Reeths-Puffer. “It’s a special group. They’re ranked No. 1 for a reason in D-3. I mean, they’re a great team. They put the ball in play, they know how to hit good pitching. They gave me a challenge. They’re a tough team and definitely a good team to play against.”

DeLora noted that getting out of school each day, holding a team meeting, then driving 15 minutes for practices or longer for games, has taken a toll in some ways.

Most high school baseball teams would love to boast 30 wins and a No. 1 state ranking. The Norsemen continue to grind and they’re obviously doing quite well making the best of the situation.

“I think you can see some exhaustion at times mentally — it’s a little different — but at the end of the day it’s helped us come together a little bit, too,” Moyer said. “There’s good out of it, too, if we dig deep enough and that’s what we try to do.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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