Prep Baseball: Northgate able to turn things around in timeBy DOUG GORMAN
So many times throughout the 2012 baseball season, it was easy to hear the frustration in the voice of Northgate coach Greg Hamilton.
With its long history of making the state playoffs, the Vikings just weren’t living up to expectations thanks to inconsistent pitching, hitting and defense.
Needing a victory to keep its season alive, Northgate put it all together, defeating the then 10th-ranked Wolverines 14-7 in the third and deciding game of the Region 3-AAAA playoffs.
The Vikings came up with timely hitting, clutch pitching and amazing defense to not only build a big lead, but keep it as well.
Another playoff bid put a smile back on Hamilton’s face.
“We are one of 32 teams heading to the playoffs and that’s all you can ask for,” Hamilton said.
Northgate faced a tremendous disadvantage heading into the must-win situation after senior shortstop Clay Thomas sat out the contest after getting ejected during the last inning of Wednesday’s doubleheader.
Freshman Blake Helton, however, showed his glove was more than capable while filling in. On at least a couple of occasions, Helton fielded hard hit balls deep in the hole, including one that started a double play that extinguished a Union Grove rally.
“We had to play some young kids today because of the situation, and they don’t always perform like they should because of nerves and whatever,” Hamilton said. “Today, they stepped up and did a really good job.”
The turning point could have come during the final inning of Northgate’s game one victory in eight innings.
Centerfielder Jake Hundley's strike to home plate allowed catcher Tyler Bowers to tag out a Union Grove runner with the potential game-winning run. Instead, a tie game continued into the eighth, allowing the Vikings to score three times and pull out a 7-4 victory to provide immediate momentum in the series against this year’s A-subregion champions.
“I just didn’t worry about it getting past me,” Hundley said. “I gripped it weird and everything, I just made a nice throw and Tyler made a great tag.”
Hundley also came up big in Thursday deciding game, taking the mound and giving the Vikings four strong innings that included getting Union Grove out in order in the third and fourth.
Either way, the series win was a confidence booster.
“I know for a fact that we can relax,” he said. “We were the No. 4 seed and we just beat the No. 1 seed,” he said. “It was a great two wins and I think we are good to go now.”
The Vikings finally found their inconsistent offense. Cody Bevil has been the team’s catalyst with the bat even before the team’s series with Union Grove.
Bevil helped push the Vikings into the playoffs with a solo home run against McIntosh in the last Region 3B-AAAA game of the season in a game where Robert Massenburg and Spencer Sheheane also combined for a no-hitter.
Bevil continued to swing a lethal bat in the series with Union Grove, especially in the third and deciding game where he produced two doubles and five RBIs.
“We just came in here,” Bevil said. “We knew we had to win. We all wanted it. We have eight seniors, and we just didn’t want this thing to end. We didn’t want this to be our last game.”
Northgate will open the playoffs against the No. 1 seed out of Region 4-AAAA next Friday. Lovejoy went into the final weekend with a one-game lead over Mundy’s Mill.