“We might be even bigger underdogs Saturday (compared to districts) just because of their baseball tradition,” Wagenmaker said.
The Rangers routinely hover around 20 wins or more and are consistent threats in the postseason. This season is no different, as the champions of the O-K Black Conference sport a 20-5 record and feature one of the best pitchers in West Michigan in Mick VanVossen.
VanVossen, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander, was recently selected in the 49th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers, but he’s likely bound for Michigan State University to play for the Spartans.
Grand Haven (15-12 overall) may not even face VanVossen, as Wagenmaker has heard rumblings that Rangers’ coach Thad Abel will instead go with their No. 2 starter, Jonah Lakatos, and save VanVossen for the regional championship.
“That’s kind of a motivator for our kids,” Wagenmaker said.
Bulletin board material aside, Wagenmaker feels his team is playing its best baseball of the season. Not only did his team’s defense and pitching shine in a pair of shutout wins during districts, but the Bucs’ offense has shown flashes of breaking through as well.
“As a team, we’ve hit well over 50 points higher than last year,” he said. “That’s significant. The kids have put in a lot of hard work and it’s great to see it getting rewarded.”
Wagenmaker said he hopes to put the Rangers into some “awkward positions” defensively. From talking with his scouts and fellow coaches who have faced the Rangers, he’s learned that their biggest weakness is their tendency to be somewhat shaky in the field.
“With their talent pitching-wise, we have our work cut out for us, but defensively, we feel we have the edge,” Wagenmaker said. “We look to be aggressive at the plate and put them in a few awkward positions. We feel we can take advantage of a few situations.”
The Bucs will send senior Adam Poel to the mound on Saturday. The senior overcame a knee injury midway through the season to shine in the district title game against Reeths-Puffer. Poel, who recently had the knee drained, threw a seven-strikeout, complete game gem against the Rockets, an effort he’ll need to come close to duplicating against FHC.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence when he’s on the mound,” Wagenmaker said. “When he’s throwing strikes, the kids believe they’ll find a way to win.”