Bobcats’ memorable run reaches its end

Brethren’s Jake Riggs prepares to deliver a pitch during the Bobcats’ regional semifinal against Beal City in Fowler on Saturday. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Brethren edged by Beal City in regional semifinal

FOWLER — Even special seasons come to an end, and on Saturday the Bobcats’ memorable run through the baseball season fell short of a regional crown.

Despite an early lead, Brethren couldn’t quite keep up with Beal City in a 5-3 loss at the Division 4 regional tournament held in Fowler. And while there are no more games to play after the loss, the Bobcats certainly logged enough victories along the way to make for an historic chapter in the program’s record books.

“There hasn’t been a Bobcat team here since 1990,” said Brethren coach Julie Riggs of the regional round, “but these boys belonged. They’ve worked hard for many years to get here today; not just this one.”

Led by a core of five seniors — Jake Riggs, Gavin Asiala, Hunter Wojciechowski, Adrian Dean and Jalen Guenther — Brethren compiled a record of 29-5, winning both the West Michigan D League and Division 4 district championships.

Up until Saturday’s regional title game, the Bobcats hadn’t allowed a single run in four postseason games, besting Onekama (1-0), Mesick (11-0) and Marion (15-0) in their district tournament, and Fowler (8-0) in the regional semifinal.

Much of that dominance could be contributed to ace Jake Riggs, who has nearly been untouchable on the mound his senior season. On Saturday, though, Beal City proved to be his toughest task of the spring. Still, Riggs struck out eight while allowing five hits and walking four.

The Aggies got on the board early, plating two runs in the bottom of the opening frame — the first on an RBI single by Wade Wilson and the second on a passed ball. Riggs got out of the inning and eventually settle in, striking out the side in the bottom of the second.

In the top of the third, it was the Bobcats’ turn to take the lead as the first three batters loaded the bases with singles from Skylar Wojciechowski and Guenther, which sandwiched a walk drawn by Tyler Guinan. Hunter Wojciechowski and Jake Riggs then tied the game at 2-2 with back-to-back RBI singles.

Brethren took a 3-2 lead when Skylar Wojciechowski scored from third on a Beal City throwing error, but it was followed by three straight outs to end the inning.

Another 1-2-3 inning had the Bobcats cruising through the third, but the Aggies made a pitching change to start the fourth and Brethren’s bats went cold with Nate Wilson on the mound.

The bottom of the fourth got ugly for the Bobcats, as two uncharacteristic errors and a passed ball led to three Beal City runs for the Aggies’ 5-3 lead that would hold up to be the final.

“We knew coming into it that we’d have to play tough, and couldn’t let that many errors happen,” Jake Riggs said. “That’s what we focused on in practice, but sometimes one bad thing leads to another and then you’re stuck trying to get out of it and get the bats back in your hands.”

There wasn’t much offense to speak of the rest of the way for either side, as Beal City went on to win the regional crown before falling later in the day, 16-2, to Nouvel Catholic Central in a super regional matchup.

Skylar Wojciechowski led Brethren at the plate Saturday, batting 3-for-4 with a game-opening double. Jake Riggs had two hits and an RBI, Hunter Wojciechowski had a hit an RBI, and Guenther, Troy Macurio and Mason Stapley had a hit apiece.

“We really wanted this trophy, I’m not going to lie,” said Julie Riggs. “And we were right there all the way through. But when you’re on the stage we were on today, one error can be the difference of the game.”

The end of the road was understandably emotional for the Bobcats, many of whom have been playing together since they could first lift a bat.

“You can’t put it into words how great it’s been playing with these guys,” Jake Riggs said. “We’re one of the best Brethren baseball teams in a long time, and losing today can’t take that away from us.

“And it just proves that if you keep building up the program — build, build, build — stick together, keep working at it, then you’ll be successful.”

Julie Riggs said her seniors were particularly special.

“They’re role models and perfect human beings to be around,” she said, fighting back tears. “They really show the younger players how to be young men, and they feed off each other in that way. Coaches, teachers, we can train and model that, but when it’s coming from your peers, it’s irreplaceable.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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