Portagers top Bobcats, win district title

The Onekama Portagers baseball team celebrates with a Division 4 District trophy in Custer on Friday as the Brethren squad looks on.

The Onekama Portagers baseball team celebrates with a Division 4 District trophy in Custer on Friday as the Brethren squad looks on.

CUSTER — Onekama’s Jon Eno was hungry, Joe McCarthy was calm and Randy Pienta was clutch.

That combination was key on Friday in leading the Onekama/Bear Lake co-op Portagers to a Division 4 district title over the Brethren Bobcats, 6-3, in a game that came down to the very last strike.

“It is just an amazing, amazing accomplishment for these guys,” said co-op coach John Neph of the win. “… It was just an amazing day.

“I am never going to forget this.”

Facing loaded bases and holding an increasingly shaky 6-3 lead at the bottom of the seventh inning, Pienta took the mound for McCarthy — who held the a powerful Bobcats lineup to eight hits while striking out seven — and calmly retired two batters to secure the district trophy.

“It was just a tight game, but our pitching was outstanding with Joe McCarthy going as long as he did and Randy coming in and getting those last two outs,” Neph said.

Portagers senior captain Jon Eno twice provided his team with clutch plays to gain the separation that ultimately decided the game.

With two runners on base in the fifth inning and holding a slight 2-1 lead, Eno blasted a ball down center field. Despite a leaping effort by a Bobcat at the fence, the ball sailed into scoring territory and the Portagers tightened their grip with a 5-2 lead.

“I was thinking ‘I am not going to let this one go by’. It was too pretty to let go,’” Jon Eno said of the pitch. “3-0 count, I should have let it go but I wanted it.

“I was hungry. I wanted it.”

Jon Eno then seemingly sealed the game with an RBI double in the seventh to take the 6-3 lead that stood. He finished with four RBIs.

“I don’t even know how to react to this. It is just way cool. It will probably hit me tomorrow morning when I realize that this actually happened. I am proud of the guys and of how well we did,” he said.

Josh Riggs pitched the entire seven innings for the Bobcats in the championship game, retiring 11 batters and allowing just eight hits and added two hits with and RBI.

“These guys played their hearts out today,” said Brethren coach Logan Pennington. “… I couldn’t ask for a better performance from any of my guys today.

“I had a little pep talk with them before (the game) and I asked them to play with their hearts on their sleeve and they did that.”

Early the Bobcats look poised to take command of the game.

James Connolly scored for the Bobcats in the first inning on a hit by Jeremiah Best. Then Brethren ace Riggs stifled the Portagers through the fourth inning, when Onekama’s Hunter Morely scored on a Jacob Mauntler single to make it 2-1 game.

McCarthy struck out two Bobcats at the bottom of the fourth to end a threat.

Riggs responded to Jon Eno’s homer in the fifth by striking out two straight to end the inning, then had an RBI on the other side of the inning then scored himself on an error to tighten the game to 5-3.

Jon Eno’s RBI was the last score.

The Bobcats reached the final by beating Pentwater, 12-2, in mercy fashion. The Portagers carved their path with a 9-4 win over Mason County Eastern.

“We are going to enjoy this for a little while, but then we are getting ready for the league games on Tuesday,” Neph said of the rescheduled West Michigan D League contest with Brethren on Tuesday that will decide the league champion. “They are a great program and Coach Pennington does a great job with those guys.”

With the loss, the Bobcats have even more motivation to win the league title.

“It is big for our seniors especially,” Pennington said. “They have done so much for the school and the community. They need to go out with a bang. Come Tuesday against Onekama, it is a big thing for our school and our program in general.

“My seniors said it themselves, they said ‘Lets not have this feeling come Tuesday.”

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