Zach Schamp slides in safely with a triple in the Super Regional game against Flushing. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
HUDSONVILLE – The Rockford Ram baseball team had a huge day, Saturday, June 8, as they took on two talented teams to earn their way to the MHSAA D1 State Semi-finals. The team showcased their own talent showing plenty of magic on the mound, composure in the field, timely hits and sprinkled in some double plays and a walk off to add to the excitement.
Rockford took on Byron Center in the Regional Finals and got some Ram hearts a thumping, going to extra innings to claim the victory. The Rams jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first but stalled and found the game knotted at 2-2 at the end of regulation. A walk off single in the bottom of the eighth earned the Rams the 3-2 victory and the Regional Championship. In the Super Regional later that afternoon, Rockford faced off against Flushing and left little doubt early who had the better team. The Rams earned the 5-1 victory and the Super Regional Championship -along with the right to move on in the MHSAA playoff tournament.
“What a day!” shares Ram head coach Matt Vriesenga. “The guys really played well. We didn’t play perfectly, but we found a way to win both. It seems like someone new has stepped up in each of our State tournament games. Saturday was a great day for many, but Grant Martin picked up two wins on the mound and a game-winning walk off base hit.”
In the Byron Center game, Zach Schamp and Joe Kelley jump started the Ram offense with singles to set the stage for some Ram runs. A passed ball advanced both runners. A Luke McLean sacrifice scored Schamp and moved Kelley to third to give the Rams a 1-0 lead. A two-out single off the bat of Grant Martin scored Kelley and the Rams closed the inning with a 2-0 edge.
Byron Center pitching quieted the Ram bats and a tie at the end of seven opened up the chance for heroics in the bottom of the eighth. Cody Sterkenburg singled to right field to start the offense, with Brendan Schueller coming in to pinch run for the Ram catcher. McLean singled to right field to move Schueller to third base. Martin came up to the plate with one out and a 1-0 count, sent the ball screaming to center field to plate Schueller for a walk off and gave the Rams the exciting 3-2 victory.
McLean started for the Rams and went 6.1 innings, pitching a gem and giving up only two runs on seven hits and two walks, while fanning five. Martin came on in relief going 1.2 innings and giving up no runs on just one hit and no walks, while striking out two to earn the win. The Rams were 8-for-29 as a team with Martin pacing the Rams going 2-for-4 with two RBI and Zach Schamp going 2-for-4 with a double. McLean (1 RBI), Kelley, Sterkenburg, and Alex Miller each chipped in a hit apiece.
In the Super Regional against Flushing, the Rams actually trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third, but the Raiders didn’t enjoy their lead for long. Two walks received by Isaac Toole and Caleb Engelsman found two Rams on the base paths with Zach Schamp up to bat. Schamp hit a hard ball to the second baseman and reached on an error and Toole scored from second to tie the game 1-1, while Engelsman advanced to second and then third on an error. A two-out Sterkenburg single plated Englesman to give the Rams the 2-1 edge.
Schamp brought some excitement in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out triple to set the stage for another Ram score. Kelley obliged with a burner to left field to score Schamp and give the Rams an insurance run, moving the score to 3-1. The Rams received plenty of breathing room in the bottom of the sixth with singles from Martin and McLean and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Alex Miller to move the score to 5-1 and earn the Rams the Super Regional Championship.
The Rams were 5-for-23 for the game with Schamp (3B), Kelley (1 RBI), Sterkenburg (1 RBI), McLean (1 RBI), and Martin each registering a hit, with Miller notching an RBI on his sacrifice fly. Martin was masterful on the mound, going six innings and giving up one run on just three hits and two walks, while striking out seven to earn the win. Engelsman came on in relief in the seventh and gave up no runs on no hits and two walks, while striking out two.
“It took a total team effort, but we figured it out,” continues Vriesenga. “We have been preaching allowing the game to come to us and paying attention to details. When we did that, we found ways to score.”
The Rams now move to MHSAA D1 Semi-final action where they will face Macomb Dakota, Thursday, June 13. The game takes place at the beautiful McLane Stadium, on the campus of Michigan State University. The game is scheduled for 9 a.m.
“I’m super proud of this team,” concludes Vriesenga. “It’s a team full of different personalities and how they each show emotion, but they sure do come together as a team and pick each other up.”
The 2019 MHSAA Super Regional Champion Rockford Ram baseball team. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
Ram pitcher Grant Martin earned wins in both games on the mound. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
Caleb Engelsman crosses the plate for the 2-1 Ram lead in the Super Regional. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
Zach Schamp hits a triple for the Rams. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
Cody Sterkenburg hits an RBI single to give the Rams to 2-1 lead in the Super Regional. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
Joe Kelley hits an RBI single. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
Caleb Engelsman came on in relief to pitch the final inning of the game. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
The Rams celebrate their Super Regional Championship trophy. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory