Dan Stickradt

Special to Sports Scene


EAST LANSING — Brett Oliver hadn’t had the best game at the plate entering the 10th inning of June 13’s Division 1 state final. But the Hartland senior will still be forever remembered with his one clutch hit.

After going 0 for 3 with a walk in the contest, the right fielder laced a line drive to right field with runners on first and third, and Richard Bortle quickly crossed the plate to lift the unranked Eagles to a thrilling, 2-1, 10-inning victory over Portage Northern at Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium.

The contest was the longest in MHSAA Class A/Division 1 finals history and second longest in all classes and divisions combined.

Hartland (28-16-1) captured its first state title in baseball after losing in the state semifinal in 2000 and three other times in the state quarterfinal round (2009, 2001, 2012).

I wasn’t here in 2000, but it was nice to get over the quarterfinals hump. We’d been there a few times recently. Once you get here [to the Final Four], anything can happen,” said Hartland coach Brian Morrison. “What a game — what a way to end it.

All I ever wanted was to be competitive, and we have been for a very long time,” he continued. “We finally got here and won a state championship. You can’t ask for anything more. Oliver has had a couple of big hits in the tournament this year, and he’s a senior who came through in the clutch for us.”

Oliver did not hesitate to call his hit the biggest achievement of his baseball career. No doubt. It was the biggest hit of my career,” he said. “I just went and swung. I knew I had to get it out of the infield. I don’t know how far it went. I heard my coach say ‘touch the bag, touch the bag.’ I just knew that when it dropped in, it was over.”

Junior John Baker went all 10 innings (30 outs), to gain his fifth postseason victory. He gave up five hits and one earned run with 11 strikeouts against three walks. Over the duration, he threw 132 pitches. I can’t even describe it,” he said. “I just kept going out there and throwing. I could have gone out there for another inning.”

Baker’s counterpart, Portage Northern senior left-hander Tommy Henry, pitched eight innings, giving up one run on seven hits, with eight punch outs, six walks, and 151 total pitches. He entered the finals with a stellar 8-1 record, a 0.35 ERA, 112 strikeouts, and just 12 walks over 59 2/3 innings of work.

Senior Max Schuemann took the loss, after pitching the ninth and 10th innings. He gave up two walks in the ninth but got out of the jam. In the 10th, three he yielded three straight singles.

Portage Northern, which fell out of the rankings just before the state tournament began, finished its best season in school history with a 30-8-1 record and the state runner-up trophy.

Hats off to them,” said Portage Northern coach Chris Andrews. “It’s hard to lose in a game like this. Both teams had runners in scoring position several times, but Hartland found a way to win it. I’m proud of these guys. We battled and played a great game.”

Hartland (27-16-1) scored first on Baker’s RBI single to left that plated Alex Vydick in the bottom of the first inning.

Portage Northern finally knotted the score at 1-1 in the top of the sixth. Schuermann opened the frame with a single and scored two batters later on Brady Young’s RBI single.

Hartland nearly won the game in the bottom of the eighth, when Alex Vydick laced a shot down the left field line with runners on first and third, but his shot fell only a couple inches foul. He later flew out to center field to end the threat.

I thought this game was going to go on longer,” said Morrison. “Fortunately, we put together a little rally in the 10th.”