NORTON SHORES – The Western Michigan Christian baseball team has a chance on Tuesday to do something it hasn’t done in a long time.

When the Warriors take the field at home against Ludington for a single game, they’ll be playing for a Lakes 8 conference championship. Coach Mark Hill doesn’t think WMC has won a conference baseball crown since sometime in the 1990s.

“This is one of the things we’ve been striving for,” said Hill, who’s led his team to a 14-6 overall record and 10-1 conference mark this season. “These guys have been taking everything day-by-day. They don’t overlook anyone.”

The Warriors have taken a big step up from last season, when they were five games below .500. Hill thinks having a tight-knit group has helped the team turn the corner this season.

WMC’s Sam Liggett drives a pitch to left field. Photo/Steve Gunn

“I think the key to our season has been comaraderie,” said Hill, who’s in his third season at the helm of the Warriors. “It’s competitive as well, and it’s kind of fun to sit back and watch. It’s been really something to enjoy and look at. I think that’s our catalyst of who we are. We’ve gotten down in games, but I don’t think we’ve ever dropped our heads.”

Senior Sam Liggett believes that part of the Warriors’ success is that the players are relaxing and simply having a good time.

“We play baseball to have fun,” said Liggett, who’s hitting .532 with nine doubles and six triples along with 27 RBIs. “Winning is fun too, and when we see our practice paying off, it kind of fuels us to work harder. Last year was fun too, but I think we’ve been putting it all together this year.”

The Warriors’ batting lineup has had a lot of fun this season, including junior Sam Sipe hitting .474 with 20 RBIs, freshman Caleb McKay hitting .431 with 17 RBIs and senior Ethan Hill hitting .372 with 16 RBIs.

Sam Sipe drops a bunt for the Warriors. Photo/Steve Gunn

“I think it’s great,” said Liggett about having a lot of offensive threats in the lineup. “I think it’s why we produce a lot of runs. If one person is having a bad day, they’ll be picked up by someone else. We’re really confident in our lineup 1-9. and it takes some weight off of our shoulders.”

Hill says the Warriors have won in different ways – with timely hitting, when it happens, or by playing small ball and doing the things necessary to move runners around the bases.

“We’re laying some crucial bunts down in crucial times,” the coach said. “Then we’re adding some timely hitting on top of it. Guys are running the bases really well and reading plays, too. That’s kind of how we play. We had zero triples as a team last year and we have 12 or 13 right now.”

Helping the Warrior offense has been strong pitching. Sipe is currently 5-2 with a 2.08 ERA in 37 innings of work while freshman Alex Wagonmaker is 5-3 with 30 strikeouts in 34 innings of work.

WMC outfielder Jamie Cho gets ready to catch a fly ball. Photo/Steve Gunn

“He’s our top pitcher,” said Hill about Sipe. “He goes out and loves the game of baseball. He’s always communicating with younger guys on the team. It helps the guys play together and it’s just a wonderful thing to be a part of.”

With just one conference game remaining and districts just around the corner, the Warriors are hoping to start accomplishing the goals they set on March 28th in their locker room.

“We had all the guys together and asked what goals we wanted to set,” Hill said about the team meeting. “We wanted them to be tangible and reachable goals. Some of the goals were to communicate better and play the game error free.

“Another was to win the Lakes 8 in this last year of it and go out as conference champions. They’ve had that in the back of their minds as we’ve gone through the season. They’ve come to the realization that the outcome is within grasp now.”

Liggett said the team is excited about the possibility of winning the conference title in the final year of the Lakes 8.

“I think that it would be great,” the senior said about winning a conference championship on Tuesday. “I’m not sure the last time we won conference. It’s been a while. The way we’re playing though, we have a good chance. To go out on top is something we all really want to do, and conference was one of our goals. It makes us want it more with it being so close.”

Will Liggett hustles down the first base line trying to leg out a hit. Photo/Steve Gunn
Will Liggett fields a grounder. Photo/Steve Gunn
WMC catcher Jonathan Clausing keeps an eye on the baserunners after receiving a pitch. Photo/Steve Gunn
WMC Assistant Coach Darin Waller, right, gives some tips to Jamie Cho before he steps up to the plate. Photo/Steve Gunn