Photos by Laura Moat for CatchMark
GRAND RAPIDS – Throughout its historic baseball season, North Muskegon’s lineup proved tough from top to bottom.
On Saturday, the Norsemen batters ran into an opposing pitcher who was a little bit better on this day.
Lansing Catholic left-hander Drew Tolfree limited North Muskegon to three hits in a 7-0 shutout during a Division 3 regional championship game at Cornerstone University’s De Witt Field.
North Muskegon, which carried a 21-game winning streak into Saturday’s contest, closes with a 35-6-1 overall record. The Norse, champions of the West Michigan Conference Rivers Division, Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament and a district, set a school record for victories in a season.
North Muskegon came off an impressive 5-1 regional semifinal victory over host Grandville Calvin Christian on Wednesday to make this team the winningest in program history. The Norsemen had no plans stopping there — they were eyeing a trip to Michigan State University’s McLane Baseball Stadium for the state semifinals and finals.
It wasn’t meant to be, however, as Tolfree had the Norse’s number. He struck out seven and walked none in an 84-pitch, complete-game effort.
Troy McManus took the loss for North Muskegon. The senior left-hander allowed two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and no walks in six innings.
It was a tight game through six innings, as Lansing Catholic held a 2-0 lead, but the Cougars tacked on five more runs in the seventh to put it out of reach.
Lansing Catholic (24-6) went on to defeat Watervliet in the quarterfinal later in the day, 6-4. The Cougars advance to the semifinals and will take on Algonac. In the other regional final Saturday at Cornerstone, Watervliet defeated Chesaning, 5-1.
McManus pitched well in his final outing for the Norsemen. He displayed his spectacular location once more along with his surgical mix of pitches that kept hitters off-balance. McManus was not able to completely neutralize the strong Lansing Catholic lineup, but he slowed it down, throwing four scoreless innings.
Ryan Delora and Logan Slimko were called to the mound for relief in the seventh, but Lansing Catholic was able to adjust to both pitchers quickly, scoring five runs in the top half of the seventh. North Muskegon was unable to string anything together in the bottom half, going 1-2-3 to end the game.
Senior Carsen Moat, junior Ben Meyers and sophomore Carter Mieler had the hits for North Muskegon, all of them singles.
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