Bobcats split with Bucks at Wuerfel Park

The Brethren baseball team poses on home plate at Wuerfel Park in Traverse City. The Bobcats split a doubleheader against Pine River. (Courtesy photo)

TRAVERSE CITY — The Brethren baseball team made a special trip to Wuerfel Park on Thursday for a doubleheader against Pine River. The Bobcats left with a little bit of everything: a win, a loss, and memories that will likely last a lifetime.

“When we set out to do this, it was about the experience for the boys,” said Brethren coach Julie Riggs. “Now they have a memory that no one can take away from them, and one that not many teams will have.”

Brethren and Pine River split the cost to rent the 4,660-seat multi-use entertainment facility, which opened its doors in 2006 as home of the now defunct Traverse City Beach Bums. Starting this season, the stadium is home to a new team, the Traverse City Pit Spitters.

On Thursday, the Bobcats (17-3) cruised to a 12-0 victory in the opener behind another standout performance on the mound from ace Jake Riggs. The senior pitcher allowed just one hit while striking out 12 of the 18 batters he faced in five innings.

“Jake definitely did his job on the mound again,” said Julie Riggs. He also led the offense, batting 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Brethren’s Skylar Wojciechowski, Troy Macurio, Adrian Dean and Gavin Asiala each went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, while Mason Stapley drew a walk and scored a run.

The tables were turned in the nightcap, as the Bucks bested Brethren 11-1 for a series split.

“We made a couple of throwing errors, which allowed two runs to score and then it got to be contagious,” Riggs said. “It started to snowball and we just couldn’t get a grip on things. I think our defense shut our own offense off because our spirit took a hit and we just couldn’t get it back.”

Macurio highlighted the offense, however, with an inside-the-park home run to account for Brethren’s lone score. Mike King, Hunter Wojciechowski and Riggs each had a hit in Game 2, as pitching duty was shared among a committee of Bobcats.

Thursday’s doubleheader, however, had more meaning to it than simply the results of the games.

“Even though I hate losing more than I like winning, it was a game of experience and memories for both teams,” Julie Riggs said. “At the end of the day, it was OK to split because both teams got to feel a win on a special day. … Everybody got either an at-bat, a run, time on the mound; that’s what mattered most about this.”

Each team had time in the clubhouse and the batting cages prior to the start of the twin bill.

“It was an awesome atmosphere,” Riggs said. “The boys were on cloud nine, feeling like kings for a day. And the rain (that was in the forecast) circled right around us; it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.”

Craig Bond, a military veteran and 1969 graduate of Pine River, sang the National Anthem.

“We were very honored to have him there to start the game off right,” said Julie Riggs, who is also a graduate of Pine River.

Jake Riggs walked his grandfather out to the mound for a ceremonial first pitch, which was caught by Pine River’s Ben Lockhart, Riggs’ cousin.

“My dad was out there with both grandsons for the opening pitch, so that was pretty special,” Julie Riggs said.

Brethren traveled well too.

“There was over 100 people there,” Julie Riggs said. “It was definitely a family event. People took up carloads to support the boys and make it a family memory.

“We just want to say thanks to all the fans who traveled up there,” she added. “I know it means a lot to the boys to have that support.”

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