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Pitching, timely hitting, grit power Shelby to 2024 district baseball title

Tigers beat Hesperia in semifinals before rallying for 7-6 finals win over rival Hart.

Shelby’s baseball team poses for a photo after winning a Division 3 district championship in a 7-6 finals victory over rival Hart Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Hesperia, Mich. (Courtesy of Tonya Garcia)

Pitching and timely hitting served Shelby’s baseball team well Saturday in Hesperia. A lot of grit made a big difference, too.

All of those things allowed the Tigers to pull off two close victories and capture another district championship, capped off in dramatic fashion.

Shelby defeated host Hesperia 4-1 in the Division 3 district semifinals, then followed that up with a nail-biting 7-6 victory over rival Hart in the championship game.

“I am so proud of how the guys continued to fight as our bats came alive in the later innings,” Shelby coach Brian Wright said.

Shelby (17-12) advances to Wednesday’s 5 p.m. regional semifinal at the Kingsley Athletic Complex. The Tigers will face the winner of today’s district final between Benzie Central and Kingsley, whose matchup Saturday at Manistee was postponed.

In Shelby’s first game Saturday, DayDay Garcia tossed a three-hitter with nine strikeouts. In the third inning, Chase Simon delivered a two-run single for the Tigers and Eli Kelley had an RBI single. Kelley came through with another run-scoring single in the fourth. Both of the Garcia brothers, DayDay and Lalo, had doubles in the game.

Shelby showed a lot of grit in the title tilt against Hart. The Tigers fell behind 4-0 after three innings but cut their deficit to one on key run-scoring hits by DayDay Garcia and Evan Waller. Shelby tied the game at 4 in the sixth on DayDay Garcia’s RBI double, but Hart responded with a run to retake the lead at 5-4 entering the seventh.

In a wild seventh inning, Shelby struck for three runs with two out in the top half off a Hart error and Trevor Weiss’ two-run single for a 7-5 lead. Hart pulled within 7-6 in the bottom half on Mitchell Slade’s RBI single, but DayDay Garcia took the mound to retire the final two batters and earn the save.

Kelley earned the pitching win for Shelby in the title game, coming on in relief of Lalo Garcia. Kelley allowed four hits and had four strikeouts.

Aiden Coker had two hits in the district final for Hart, which edged Mason County Central 2-1 in the semifinals on Blake Weirich’s pitching gem.

“We hold our heads up, proud of the seasonwe have had,” Hart coach David Riley said. “At the same time, I am heartbroken for the boys that it had to end the way it did. While difficult to process now, the 16-win season was the best in the program dating back almost two decades.

“With growth comes stumbles, but we plan on staying the course and doing the work together to continue progress.”

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

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