with gallery: Chelsea baseball team loses quarterfinal game to St. Joseph, 7-5
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This story was updated with additional details and postgame reaction.
After winning one-run games in three of its first four postseason contests, the Chelsea High School baseball team found itself on the losing end of a close game Tuesday.
The Bulldogs lost 7-5 to St. Joseph in an MHSAA quarterfinal at the University of Michigan’s Ray Fisher Stadium after the Bears scored twice in the top of the seventh inning.
“They just played their butts off, like we did,” said Chelsea junior Alex Maloney. “Today, they were the better team.”
The Bulldogs (20-19-1) had won seven straight coming into the game and claimed their first regional championship since 2007.
“Nobody gave us a chance and that was kind of our motivation,” Maloney said. “We weren’t even picked to win our district, let alone win a regional and come play here. We proved people wrong and got Chelsea baseball back on track.”
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Things got off to a good start for Chelsea, which took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a two-run triple by Maloney that hit the top of the left field wall. Maloney was 3-for-3 on the day with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Tanner Starkey followed with a sacrifice squeeze play to bring in Maloney, the first of two runs the Bulldogs would score in that fashion.
“It was just what I had to do to help the team win today,” said Starkey, who scored Maloney with another sacrifice bunt later in the game.
The score remained 3-0 until the top of the fourth inning. After getting the first two batters out, Chelsea starter Logan Marable walked a batter, who then stole second base. An RBI single by Taylor Hatfield set the table for Dylan Hammond, who drove a pitch over the left field wall to tie the game at three.
“It gives everybody confidence that we’re never out of a game,” said St. Joseph coach Eric Danapilis. “One swing of the bat and we’re right back in this thing.”
Two innings later, the Bears again tied the game, 5-5, on a solo home run by Hatfield.
Marable lasted 4 1/3 innings before Maloney took over in relief. After striking out five of the first eight batters he faced, the Bears finally caught up with Maloney in the seventh inning.
A double by Anthony Montoya scored Nicholas Lawrence, who slid under the tag at the plate. Riley Johnson then singled to add another run.
Maloney led off the Chelsea half of the seventh inning with a single. Two batters later, Luke Hollandsworth hit a ball to the warning track in left field that was chased down by the Bears. Brad Hepler grounded out to end the game.
First-year Chelsea coach Adam Taylor said that even though they fell short of the ultimate goal, he was happy with his club’s performance.
“The seniors left their mark on the program. We’ve struggled the past few years and they’ve done a good job,” Taylor said. “The end result isn’t what we wanted, but today is a good step for the program. I’m happy for the seniors.”
St. Joseph (32-9) advances to a state semifinal for the first time in program history. The Bears will play Bay City John Glenn on Friday in Battle Creek..
“We have a whole great group of seniors that have led this team from the beginning,” Danapilis said. “We’ve been there, we were close and now that we’re over the hump I think we’ll start to believe that we’ll keep on winning.”
Maloney is confident that the Bulldogs - who’ll return fellow starters Marable, Hollandsworth, Colton Platt and Caleb Bentley -- can copy the same sort of success next year.
“I think we’re going to do it again and we’ll compete,” he said. “We always compete and we have a lot of people coming back.”