Otsego falls to Marshall in regional semifinal
Heading the Division 2 regional semifinal against Marshall on Saturday, June 9, Otsego baseball coach Matt Eldred knew the task facing his team was a tough one.
Not only had the Red Hawks won their conference championship, but they also had hard-throwing southpaw Evan Asselin on the mound in search of his 10th victory of the season.
Unfortunately for Otsego, Asselin got just that.
The Bulldogs were limited to three hits and were unable to get a runner past second base against Asselin in suffering the 4-0 defeat.
Otsego finished the season at 21-9.
“Asselin threw very well for Marshall,” Eldred said. “He had good velocity and a nice curveball coming from the left side. We just don’t see many quality left-handed pitchers during the regular season and that probably has something to do with the difficulty we had at the plate.”
Nerves may have also played a role in those offensive struggles. None of the players on the Otsego roster had ever appeared in a regional contest before.
“I did feel like we were a little tight playing and it showed in various ways, including at the plate,” Eldred said. “It was a tough way to end it.”
In three of Otsego’s seven offensive innings, the Bulldogs were retired in order. In three other innings, Asselin allowed just one base runner.
Otsego’s best scoring chance came in the top of the third inning when Derek Ward and Will Eldred drew back-to-back one-out walks to give the Bulldogs their first runner in scoring position.
But Asselin got Addison Atwater to ground into a fielder’s choice that resulted in Ward being forced out at third base before Jaekob Sallee grounded out to third base to end the threat.
The Bulldogs also tried to rally in the top of the seventh as, with one out, Derek Slocum singled and Corbin Smith walked to put runners at first and second. But a strikeout and a caught stealing accounted for the second and third outs to bring the game to a close.
A first-inning single by Sallee and a fifth-inning single by Morris accounted for the other Otsego hits.
Slocum drew the starting assignment for Otsego and took the loss. He allowed four runs on 10 hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
Marshall scored its first run on an RBI double by Kole DeLand in the second inning before making it a 3-0 lead on Matt Lubis’ two-run single an inning later. Marshall’s final run came on an RBI double by Jarrett DeLand in the fifth inning.
Despite the outcome of this game, Matt Eldred views the 2018 campaign as a successful one
“I thought we had a really good year, finishing 21-9 overall and 13-4 in the conference, which tied us with Vicksburg for third place. The district championship is something we will always remember and is something to build on for next year.”
Speaking of next year, Matt Eldred is optimistic of another strong showing.
“I’m really looking forward to next season, as we lose one senior from this group,” he said.
That senior is Slocum.
“He’ll be tough to replace, as he is a very talented pitcher and did a nice job for us in a couple of infield positions as well,” Matt Eldred said. “He is planning to continue his education and baseball career, but he’s not sure exactly where yet.”
Bulldogs split with Sturgis
Four days prior to its regional contest and three days after securing its district championship, Otsego had to travel to Sturgis to complete a Wolverine Conference doubleheader that had been postponed in the first game due to the weather.
After falling 3-0 in the opener, the Bulldogs came back to take the second game 5-4 to salvage the split.
“We started this game earlier in the year and got to the bottom of two before the rain wrecked the mound and baseball could not continue,” Matt Eldred said. “It was kind of odd making it up the Tuesday after the district tournament, but Sturgis had a chance to be co-champions with Edwardsburg if they beat us twice, so it really needed to be played.”
With game two deadlocked at 4-4, Will Eldred singled and later scored on an error in the top of the sixth inning to provide the winning margin for the Bulldogs.
Will Eldred finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs, while Jayden Dentler was 2-for-2. Smith singled and drove in a pair of runs, with Sallee collecting an RBI double.
Morris picked up the complete-game win, allowing four runs on six this with a walk and four strikeouts.
In game one, Dentler had two of Otsego’s five hits. Mason Ingold took the loss with one run allowed in one inning, while Owen Watson pitched five innings, giving up two runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
“I was very happy with how Owen pitched,” Matt Eldred said. “He will be relied on more next year to get on the mound.”