MUSKEGON — A pair of players stepped up big time for Mona Shores when their numbers were called Saturday during the GMAA Tier 1 baseball tournament finals at Marsh Field.
Bryson Belanger and Isaac Habetler both came through in pivotal moments as the Sailors topped Reeths-Puffer 13-2. The city title is the fourth straight for Mona Shores, and Coach Brandon Bard said the event is an annual highlight for the program.
“Obviously it’s something we always look forward to,” said Bard, whose team has now beaten a good Reeths-Puffer squad three out of four games this week. “It’s always fun to get together with this every year to get some sort of tournament atmosphere. This is fun for the kids every year.”
With the score tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the third inning, Reeths-Puffer had a man on third base with only one out. Bard made a pitching change, calling on Belanger, who pitches from an unusual subarmine arm angle that can throw off opponents.
Bard was hoping his reliever could get a few outs and work out of the jam before making another move. Belanger had other ideas, as he pitched the final 5.2 innings, allowing no runs on just two hits with two strikeouts.
“Honestly when I handed him the ball, I thought it was (for) two outs, maybe four outs,” Bard said. “He’s been having a sore arm most of the year this year, so I just ask him to come in and get tough outs for us.
“I handed him the ball and we never had to take it back. The moment’s not too big for him, he was huge for us today.”
While Belanger’s pitching kept the Rockets at bay, the Sailor offense got a spark from Habetler, who was absent from the initial batting order with a teammate serving as his designated hitter.
Habetler was brought in to lay down a sacrifice bunt with two men on and no outs in a 2-2 game in the top of the fifth. He placed a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. The throw to first went wild, allowing two runs to score and giving Mona Shores the lead.
Bard said he felt confident Habetler could get the bunt down, which stems from drills the team did earlier this year. In that situation, Habetler was serving as the catcher during drills and got frustrated with his teammates struggling to bunt. He then, in full catching equipment, stepped in the box and set the example.
“With shin guards on, with the catcher’s mask and chest protector, he’s like ‘Watch this, I’ll take care of it,’” Bard said. “First time, boom, drops it down. He’s confident in it.”
Mona Shores went on to score five runs in the fifth, added four in the sixth and scored twice in the seventh.
For Reeths-Puffer, defensive mistakes piled up as the game went on, sparking several Mona Shores rallies. R-P Coach Butch Attig said the team will need to sharpen things up by the time districts come around.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Attig said. “You can’t make mistake after mistake against good baseball teams. We’ve got to clean things up.
“This was one of our goals, it didn’t happen. The biggest goal is that mitten (a district trophy) and making a run.”
Habetler ended the game 3-for-3, scored three times and got the game ball from Bard after the game.
Mark Konecny had a big game for Shores with a double, a triple, two walks and four RBIs. He had two hits, including a homer, and four RBI against North Muskegon earlier in the day.
Aaron Piasecki and Javanni Johnson both had two hits against Reeths-Puffer, with Johnson collecting two RBIs. Piasecki totaled seven hits across the three games on Saturday and drove in the go-ahead run against Fruitport in pool play.
Brody Panozzo led Reeths-Puffer at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Kaden Edwards had a double while Trent Reichert, Jaxson Whitaker and Alex Orchard each had singles.
Freshman Trevor Cunningham started for Mona Shores. He pitched 2.1 innings and allowed two runs. Cunningham earned a win in relief against Fruitport earlier in the day.
Reichert started for the Rockets and took the loss, pitching four-plus innings and allowing six runs. Whitaker recorded three outs in relief, while Orchard pitched the final two innings.