By David Troppens
Midland — Six area tri-county graduate prep baseball players were given one more chance to wear the jerseys of their high schools Tuesday.
Playing as members of the South Team, Fenton’s Brock Henson and Cam Steeves; Linden’s Travis Klocek and John Miller; Lake Fenton’s Hunter Schramm and Holly’s Garrett VanGilder competed in the fifth-annual North vs. South High School Baseball Classic All-Star Game held at Midland’s Dow Diamond.
And while the South lost the contest 11-7, the players had a great time representing the Flint area schools against the Saginaw area players.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Henson, who left as the South’s Most Valuable Player. “I’m out here with all these great guys to get the job done. I wish we could’ve won it, but it was a lot of fun.”
“I got to be here with a bunch of people I didn’t know. It was special,” Schramm said. “Some of us are playing in college, and we are not going to know the guys (on our college teams). We will have to interact with them and get to know them. It’s special to be with other people you don’t know and we’ll bond with them. It was great to be a part of it.”
“It’s awesome,” VanGilder said. “This kind of sums up my senior year,
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and it’s great to come back out one more time and play with the best players in the area.”
The area players had varying levels of success in the game. For the second straight year, a Fenton player was the South squad’s MVP. Offensively, Henson went 2-for-2 with a walk, and two stolen bases. His second hit was a triple down the right-field line, leading off the ninth inning. It began a three-run ninth for the squad.
“I had a nice 3-and-1 count,” Henson said. “I saw a fastball and it was near the end of the game. We were down by a lot anyway so I figured I may as well see how far I could hit it. It was a fastball and I hit it well.
“It was a great experience. I feel blessed to be out here. Playing with all these great baseball players on a great field like this is awesome. You can’t beat it.”
Henson opened the game with a walk and two stolen bases, but was stranded on third. He singled to lead off the third inning, but didn’t score then. He did score in the ninth inning.
He wasn’t the MVP, but Miller had to be one of the top candidates for the honor. In a game that offense dominated, Miller’s pitching was strong. He mixed up his slow curveball with his fastball well, tossing two innings of shutout ball. He allowed a lead-off single to start the North’s third inning, but then struck out the side. He struck out the first two batters in the fourth inning as well before walking a batter. The next batter singled, but Fenton’s Steeves threw a strike to third base, gunning out the runner at third base ending the threat.
“For me, my curve ball is my put-up pitch,” Miller said. “I want to give that pitch to the batter to perceive a slow pitch, and then get it by them with the fastball. I try to keep a good difference in speeds.”
Schramm came in relief in the bottom of the second inning, replacing starting pitcher Klocek. Schramm did well, striking out two of the three batters he faced. He didn’t have much time to prepare himself in the pen.
“I came in and I wasn’t completely warm,” Schramm said. “I had like five pitches and coach just told me to hit your spots and to not worry about velocity, and that’s what I did.”
Schramm also walked during one of his plate appearances, scoring a run. His head coach Brad LeRowe was one of the South Team’s coaches.
VanGilder was unable to get a hit but played a decent amount of the game at shortstop.
“I’m probably going to remember just playing in a stadium like this and hanging with the guys,” VanGilder said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Steeves didn’t get a hit during his at bats,but did make the throw from right, one of the game’s top defensive plays.
Meanwhile, Klocek started the contest on the mound, but was able to pitch only 1 1/3 innings, allowing six runs.
The players enjoyed their time together. The tri-county athletes spent quite a bit of time talking in the dugout. Some of the athletes played in the Mott All-Star Game as well.
“You see them for four years and have been rivals for all those years,” VanGilder said. “But then you come here and you are all on the same team. It’s like school doesn’t matter. You are playing the same sport one last time together.”
“It’s amazing because when you play against them, you want them to loose and now we’re on the same team,” Miller said. “It’s all one great team. I love playing with these guys.”