Warriors win first regional title since 1985

WEST BRANCH — Ben Wright told his Chippewa Hills baseball players they could give him a Mohawk haircut if they won the regional tourament on Saturday.

The Warriors won two games to take the regional trophy and Wright was the happy recipient of a new hairdo.

The Warriors defeated Escanaba 8-1 on Jake Tarbell’s seven-hit gem in the semifinal of the regionals at Ogemaw Heights High School and then topped the host team in the title game 4-1 behind Nick Halm’s six-hit masterpiece.

It’s Chippewa Hills’ first regional title since 1985.

ON TOP: Members of the Chippewa Hills baseball team celebrate their regional title on Saturday. It’s the Warriors’ first regional title since 1985. (Pioneer photo/John Raffel)

“It feels really good,” Wright said. “But now we can play at Central Michigan on Tuesday. We’re really excited about what we


It was a great moment to celebrate the regional title, but Halm said there is still more to accomplish.

“This is huge, this is what we were waiting for and what we really wanted,” Halm, a senior, said. “But we’re not done.”

Taking it to the next level was something the Warriors had

discussed on many occasions throughout the season.

“This was one of our goals,” Warrior first baseman Colton Conley said. “We wanted to beat what we did last year.”

The Warriors will play Bay City John Glenn at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at CMU in a state quarterfinal game.

Ty Schafer’s bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the second inning of the title game gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead. It went to 2-0 in the third on an Ogema Heights fielding error.

The Falcons got on the the board in the top of the fourth on Tyler Palm’s home run.

In the fifth, Tarbell’s RBI single made it 3-1. Colton Conley singled and scored on an error.

In the top of the seventh, Devin Esch in center field made the defensive play of the game for the first out. Brandon Benac smacked a deep drive to center field that Esch, with his back, mostly away from the plate, reached out and made a running catch in WIllie Mays-Vic Wertz-World-Series style.

“That was an amazing catch,” Wright said. “To get turned around and catch it was something special. Once we caught that ball I figured we had it.”

“I got a good jump on it, ran back and put it all on the line to catch the ball,” Esch said, adding that it was “probably” the best catch he’s ever made.

Halm had 10 strikeouts against the Falcons and no walks.

“Nick threw outstanding,” said Wright. “It was a very good ballgame against a quality opponent. We were able to get a lot of guys on base. Nick has thrown a lot of very good games. Under the circumstances, Nick threw very well. I don’t know if it’s his best outing of the year but he for sure pitched well.”

Wright also credited his team’s defense in the second game.

“We came through with a couple of double plays,” Wright said. “The ball didn’t always bounce our way. But we came through when we needed to and our defensive side came through. We had a couple of big hits too. It all came together.”

Halm admitted that his stuff was working on Saturday.

“I know when the curveball works…I can be dominant,” Halm said. “I don’t throw with a lot of velocity. I know if I place some pitches right and get a good movement, I can pitch (well). The biggest concept is pitching to contact. I had my defense behind me. I felt everything was working for me.”

Halm fanned six batters in the first three innings.

“It really clicked in probably the fourth and fifth innings,” Halm said.

At the plate, Halm also had some key hits for the Warriors. In the first game, he had a two-out, two-strike basesloaded single for two runs in the top of the third inning that helped Chippewa Hills start to break the game open.

“Their pitcher was a little wild and we made the adjustment,” Halm said. “I knew even when they brought their other pitcher in, I knew we weren’t scared. That was good.”

Last season, the Warriors lost in the regional finals.

Eskymo starter Devin Olson had control problems early in the game and three batters in the first three innings. The Warriors scored two in the first on Anthony Dague’s sacrifice fly and and a wild pitch. Olsen’s RBI single drove home Escanaba’s only run in the second. Halm’s key two-RBI single came in the top of the third and forced the Upper Peninsula school to make a pitching change.

In the fourth, Dague and Justin Wernette both had RBI doubles for a 6-1 lead. The Warriors scored two more runs on sacrifice flies from Halm in the sixth and Justin Wernette in the


Tarbell went the distance and and fanned six batters.

Esch and Wernette had two singles for the Warriors.

The season ended for the Falcons at 22-11-1.

“We made a few errors in the field,” said Falcons coach Chris Powley. “We hit the ball OK but we couldn’t put things together. We played a geat team. Chip Hills is a good quality baseball team. We just had one too many errors.”

Escanaba ended its season at 23-14

“We were lucky to come up in big situations,” Wright said. “They had many chances, bases-loaded a couple of times and guys on base. We made some pretty good plays. It could have easily gone the other way if we don’t make those plays.”



Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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