Hartland — The Fenton varsity baseball team has had some good squads during many recent seasons.
The Tigers have had plenty of 20-plus win seasons and have earned league titles. However, one thing that has eluded them has been a Division 1 district baseball title.
A lot of that has had to do with the Hartland Eagles usually standing in their way of winning one.
That changed on Monday. The Tigers completed a 6-3 district semifinal victory against Milford and then came from behind in the seventh inning to defeat the Hartland Eagles 6-5 on the Eagles’ home field, earning a district championship. Fenton returns to action today with a road contest against Walled Lake Northern at 4 p.m.
“They have been a nemesis for us for a long time,” Fenton varsity baseball coach Shawn Lawrence said. “We are a smaller Division 1 school, but we have scheduled teams like Saline, Grand Blanc, Howell, Hartland, Bay City Western twice, Rochester and Clarkston for our non-league games and most of those schools are close to 2,000 students. We took some tough losses against some of those teams this year. But when we lost the league this year the kids had the mentality of let’s get in district mode, and they did. Playing those teams earlier in the season has helped.”
The championship is Fenton’s first since 2001, and first Division 1 title in school history. Making the championship even more rewarding was the comeback the Tigers had to make in the bottom of the seventh inning in the title contest against the Eagles. What ended up winning the championship was a walk-off hit batter.
Trailing 5-3, Ryan Adams started the threat with a single. Spencer Rivera followed with a single of his own and Eddie Briand bunted the runners to second and third. Josh Brown tied the contest with a two-run single. Cameron Steeves singled and Connor Luck walked, loading the bases. An out later, Brock Henson came to the plate and was hit by a pitch, forcing the game-winning run to the plate.
“I give the kids all the credit in the world for grinding it out,” Lawrence said. “It was a tough year for us. We had a lot of extra-inning games and we didn’t accomplish all we thought we could. But they went in to districts, battled for it and that says a lot about them.”
Hartland jumped to a 2-0 lead after the first inning, but the Tigers tied it with two runs in the bottom of the second inning. Brendan Alvord singled and Rivera doubled, putting runners on second and third. A fielding error scored one run and Briand’s RBI-ground out scored another.
Fenton took its first lead at 3-2 when Steeves walked, went to second on Luck’s sacrifice and moved to third on a Logan Angel single. Henson hit a sacrifice fly, plating Steeves.
However, Hartland scored two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth, taking a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh. But the Tigers made sure that lead didn’t hold.
Alvord went the distance on the mound, allowing seven hits and just one walk. He struck out nine batters.
In the win against Milford, the Tigers took a 4-0 lead with three runs in the bottom of the third inning on Saturday before the rains forced the game’s suspension until Monday. Steeves had a two-run triple followed by RBI-doubles by Luck and Angle during that third inning.
Before the rains suspended the contest on Saturday, the Mavericks loaded the bases with no out. Ryan Adams replaced Henson on the mound on Monday facing that daunting scenario and got out of it allowing two runs on batted ball outs. Fenton led 4-2.
The Tigers answered right back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Adams hit a one-out single, and Brown followed with a two-out single, putting runners on first and third. A balk plated one run and then a batted ball error off of Steeves’s bat plated the other run. Fenton led 6-2 and held on reasonably easily after that.
Milford did score a run and put the game-tying run at the plate with two out in the seventh, but Adams got out of the jam to earn the Tigers the semifinal victory and himself the four-inning save. Henson pitched the first three innings, allowing just one hit and two unearned runs. Both hurlers struck out five batters.