Buccaneers’ varsity baseball coach Michael Hansen is sick and tired of excuses.
He’s had enough of seeing the same mistakes being made over and over.
It’s time for a change, Hansen said, and he’s challenged his players to embrace that change, or else they won’t be playing much longer.
On Thursday, it was a pair of base running blunders that cost Grand Haven dearly in a 5-3 loss to East Kentwood.
“We were absolutely abysmal at running the bases,” Hansen said following the Bucs’ third loss to the Falcons in as many days. “They know better. They’ve been taught better. They choose not to apply what they’ve been taught, and it’s not going to be tolerated.
“All I can tell you is, it’s a reoccurring problem, and the problem can’t continue. There are changes going to be made. If they can’t run the bases better than that, then they’re not the baseball players we’re looking for.”
Trailing 2-1, the Buccaneers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. Hayden Modaff’s fly ball to right field scored Cody Jonas, but on the play, Aaron Shumaker was thrown out as he attempted to tag up and take second base.
The Falcons added two runs in the sixth to lead 4-2, but the Bucs had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Modaff and Jeff Stevens ripped back-to-back base hits to put runners on first and third with one out.
Tanner Jonas’ fielder’s choice scored Modaff to make it 5-3, but forced out Stevens at second base. Jonas beat out the throw to first to avoid the double play, then took second on an error.
The Bucs’ next batter, Ty VanWieren, drilled a ball into the gap between third and short. East Kentwood’s shortstop collected the ball, and would have had a tough time getting the speedy VanWieren at first.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Tanner Jonas broke toward third on contact, and was tagged out for the final out of the game.
Add in a few defensive blunders and the Bucs’ coaches left the ballpark feeling like they had let one slip away.
“This has been a trend the entire season,” Hansen said. “We’ve addressed it many times, over and over. We’ve had many games where we’ve had a chance to win it, but haven’t been able to deliver. We make those mistakes that are game-changers. You can’t make those mistakes and expect to win ballgames.
“The bright spot is, we had eight hits, and we hit the ball hard right at their players a few times. That’s a good sign. And we made a few good defensive plays. Sawyer Jacobs had a nice catch in right field, and Chad Mattson made a nice play at third base.
“But there were some defensive plays we should have made, could have made. We had a drop at first base, and our catcher lets the ball get past him and throws the ball into center field. I can count 2-3 runs we gave them, and 2-3 runs we took away. That’s the difference in the ballgame.”
The loss wasted a solid start by Bucs’ junior John Cahalen. He went four innings, allowing three hits and two runs while striking out four. Jacob Miller took the loss as he went three innings, allowing one earned run and four hits. He struck out one.
Stevens and Jonas each had two hits for the Buccaneers, while Tanner Jonas, Cody Jonas and Haden Modaff each drove in runs.
Both the Bucs and the Falcons finished with eight hits.
Junior Varsity: Grand Haven completed a sweep of East Kentwood with a 13-1 victory on Thursday. Johnny Miller earned the win for the Bucs, tossing four shutout innings. Kaleb Schmidt finished off the victory on the mound. Jared Kelly collected three hits for the Bucs, who have won four of their last five games.
Freshmen: Grand Haven improved to 8-3 on the year with a 5-4 win over East Kentwood. Garrison Mast threw a complete game on the mound while Jordan Ploeg had the game-winning RBI.