Commerce — The Fenton varsity baseball team’s historic run through the Division 1 tournament will continue for a bit longer.
The Tigers got some clutch relief pitching from Logan Welch and the game-winning two-run single by Cameron Steeves in the top of the fifth inning, earning the Tigers a 3-2 regional semifinal victory against Walled Lake Northern at Walled Lake Northern High School on Thursday.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team like this before,” Welch said. “We were about .500 but once we got to the postseason we really hit our stride and bonded. We are a close team. Everybody loves each other on the team and we are playing for each other. So it’s really nice that we have a group of kids that really love being with each other, and keep fighting to keep playing with each other for that much longer.”
The Tigers (20-17) now travel to Novi High School to play in the regional championship game against Detroit Catholic Central, Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The winner of that game will play in the Super regional contest against the Romeo-Brother Rice victor at approximately 3 p.m.
“You have to forget about it and we have to keep looking forward,” Welch said. “You can remember how nice it was to get this win, but you have to get it out of your mind to just keep focusing on the next one.”
The Tigers have earned the right to remember the game after what they accomplished. The Knights took the early lead, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Fenton starting pitcher Grahm Staib struggled early as Bryan Malak singled and scored on Noah Stants’s triple. A batter later, Johnny Stepek grounded out, plating Stants.
Fenton cut the gap in half with a run in the second inning. Henson singled, stole second and third base and scored on Brendan Alvord’s sacrifice fly. Fenton trailed 2-1.
Staib steadied his pitching after the first inning but struggled in the fourth. After getting an out, Jack Elkins and Ty Stepek hit back-to-back singles, forcing Staib out of the game in favor of Welch. Welch allowed a sacrifice bunt, hit Zach Brunet to load the bases but then got Malak to pop out.
“It set the mood for me,” Welch said. “I got excited and I had a Tiger Woods fist-pump. It was really nice.”
The Tigers took the lead for good in the fifth. Ryan Adams walked and Spencer Rivera was hit by a pitch. An error moved the runners to second and third and a bunt by Josh Brown got nobody out, loading the bases with one out. Steeves came up and hit a two-run single, giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
“We got to a full count, I got a good pitch to hit and I stayed within myself,” Steeves said. “I wanted to hit it to the outfield so we could score runs.”
The Tigers never got another hit the rest of the game, but didn’t need to since Welch and the Tigers’ defense was steadily strong. The final seven Northern batters went out in order.
Staib pitched 3 1/3 innings, striking out two and allowing both runs. Welch earned the victory with 3 2/3 innings of one-hit, no-walk ball, striking out three.
This is the farthest we’ve done (in the Division 1 tournament),” Steeves said. “We are kind of going in as the underdog in all of our games, and we have had so much energy. It’s great.”