The Bucs lost 8-0 and 3-2 to the Eagles on Tuesday, but they quickly put that behind them with a convincing home victory. Alex Kapala led Grand Haven by tossing seven shutout innings, picking his way through Hudsonville’s lineup with ease.
“It was a little tough coming off the two losses on Tuesday, but we just returned to practice, regrouped and got ready for the game,” Kapala said. “When the team plays great defense behind me, it makes my job a lot easier.
“It definitely helps when you can have that little base (of runs scored). The team played good today, and it was great having all facets clicking out there.”
Dark clouds ominously threatened over the diamond, as thunder rumbled over Lake Michigan. A few sprinkles broke through the clouds, but the baseball gods smiled down on Grand Haven, allowing them to weather the storm and finish the game in seven innings.
Bucs head coach Mike Hansen was displeased with the way his team played Tuesday night against Hudsonville, but he said Thursday night’s game was the exact opposite.
“That’s the game of baseball, you have to bounce back quickly because we have a game almost every day,” Hansen said. “We played poorly on Tuesday and we didn’t do a whole lot good, but today we did everything well. We pitched extremely well, ran the bases and we scored when we had to.
“When you are playing great teams every single day, you have to play great baseball every time out.”
Although Hansen was impressed with his starting pitcher, he has become accustomed to Kapala’s great performances.
“Usually if you get great pitching it makes everyone else’s game pick up because it makes them relaxed,” Hansen said. “It all starts with pitching. We have guys who throw strikes with pretty good stuff. Kapala has been doing this all year long. He’s really been outstanding.”
The game was tied 0-0 through three innings, as both lineups struggled to gain any offensive momentum. With few men on base by either team, the game flew by at a quick pace, which allowed both starting pitchers the opportunity to establish their own rhythms.
Grand Haven orchestrated a beautiful piece of small ball in the fourth inning to take a one-run lead. With a runner on second base, Bucs shortstop Owen Krizan executed a perfect bunt down the third-base line, moving the runner up to third base with just one out. Jax Mast then came up to bat, sending a towering shot deep into left field. The ball stayed in play, and was caught by a Hudsonville outfielder, but the Bucs baserunner tagged at third base and scored the game’s first run. Though it was just one run, it felt monumental with Kapala pitching a gem.
In the fifth inning, Grand Haven manufactured another run. Connor Worthington reached base on a walk, and he ultimately scored on a wild pitch after a great bit of base running. The Bucs’ two runs may not have been the prettiest, but they took advantage of their opportunities.
“Those little things are things you have to do,” Hansen said. “If you aren’t taking advantage of what the opposition gives you, then you are just waiting to get beat.”
Kapala was so dominant Thursday that Hudsonville struggled to even get players on second base. He was in full command of his fastball and off-speed pitches, forcing most Hudsonville batters to look on helplessly up in the batter’s box.
Although Grand Haven has struggled to consistently score runs this season, its lineup is filled with talented hitters. Throughout the lineup, Grand Haven features quick table-setters, power potential and patience. Hits and runs have been sparse for the Bucs this season, but that could change in a hurry if everything starts to click.
Despite suffering a few tough loses in O-K Red Conference play this season, Grand Haven looks poised to make some postseason noise with its electric pitching, determined base running and elite fielding. All the Bucs need is a little spark in the batter’s box to really make this a special season.