The Rangers (21-6) would fall to Rockford (27-6) in the regional championship, 4-2. The Rams slipped by fellow O-K Red Conference foe Hudsonville in a thrilling semifinal, 6-5 in nine innings.
Grand Haven coach Morey Wagen-maker said the Rangers were opportunistic offensively off of Bucs’ starter Adam Poel.
“They hit some tweeners that found some holes out there, and really, they only hit a couple balls hard the entire game,” said Wagenmaker, whos team finishes at 15-13. “I thought we played great. We battled the whole game, and they didn’t score again after the third inning.”
Forest Hills Central did all of its damage early against the Bucs, scoring two runs in the first and one apiece in the second and third. Rangers’ standout Mick VanVossen had a two-run RBI double to get FHC rolling in the first, then the Rangers added an RBI fielder’s choice in the second, and a sacrifice fly in the third.
Poel said he was frustrated with his lack of control, despite issuing only one walk to the Rangers.
“I didn’t have enough first-pitch strikes,” the Bucs’ senior ace said. “I threw a lot of pitches. We rebounded well after the first three innings. (Our defense) struggled a little bit and they had a lot of bloop hits, but that’s going to happen in baseball.”
Grand Haven’s lone run came in the fourth off the bat of junior Doug Zelenka. The Bucs’ leading hitter with a .452 average on the season drove in Danny Cotter with an RBI single. Cotter led off the inning with a walk, then reached second on a sacrifice bunt from Jeff Stevens.
But Lakatos, the Rangers’ No. 2 starter, didn’t offer many glimmers of hope to the Bucs’ lineup, despite allowing four walks.
“He had a real power arm,” Poel said. “We were probably not as aggressive as we should have been and we let him get ahead of the count too often. And they made us pay.”
FHC’s defense, which was suspected to be an issue, also played error-free baseball.
Ty Vanwieren had two hits for the Bucs, while Cotter and Stevens also recorded hits.
Despite the loss, Wagenmaker said he cherised the season, which saw Grand Haven win its first district championship in 15 seasons.
“Myself and my staff are very proud of those guys,” he said. “They showed tremendous effort every time they stepped on the field. They were a joy to coach.”