with gallery: After semifinal scare, Chelsea baseball team wins first regional title since 2007
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Call it a bit of home-field advantage that helped the Chelsea High School baseball team claim a Division 2 regional championship Saturday.
The Bulldogs beat Trenton, 12-6, on their home field to win their first regional title since 2007. But if the left field fence at the stadium were five feet closer to home plate, Chelsea's season would have been over before it had a chance to win a championship.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 5-4 semifinal win against Carlton Airport earlier in the day, the Jets' Alex Quirie hit a ball deep to left field that had a chance to be a game-winning home run. Chelsea's Caleb Bentley made a running catch on the warning track to seal the Bulldogs' victory.
“For sure, I thought it was gone. And so did everyone else,” said Chelsea pitcher Alex Maloney. “Bentley made a great play on it.”
As Bentley made the catch, the Bulldogs stormed the field for a short celebration. The catch meant there was another game to play, after all.
Maloney and Luke Hollandsworth led the Bulldogs in the final game against Trenton, combining for seven RBIs.
Maloney broke a 2-2 tie in the third inning with a bases-clearing double and Hollandsworth followed two batters later with a sacrifice fly to give the Bulldogs a 6-2 lead.
“Their coach came out for a mound visit and we always say when they come out for a visit, we know we’re getting a fastball right after that,” said Maloney. “I was sitting fastball and I just hit it. I knew it was coming.”
Trenton took the lead in the first on a single by Eric Trombley, who had two RBIs in the contest. Garret Vandenberg doubled the lead in the bottom of the second inning with a triple.
In the top of the third, Chelsea exploded.
“We made an adjustment, the guy threw a little harder and we just shortened up and shortened our approach down,” said first-year Chelsea coach Adam Taylor.
After Jarred Scheese gave Chelsea 5 2/3 innings on the mound, Maloney took over to record the final four outs, three of them on strikeouts. It was the second time on Saturday he finished the game for the Bulldogs.
In the semifinal against Airport, with the score 5-2 and the bases loaded with nobody out, Maloney took over for Logan Marable. After giving up a single, Maloney got the Bulldogs out of the inning while only surrendering one more run to retain a 5-4 lead.
“Al’s a great pitcher, when I saw him going on (the mound) I knew it was no big deal," Marable said. "I knew he could do it."
The Bulldogs will face St. Joseph in a quarterfinal on Tuesday at the University of Michigan's Ray Fisher Stadium . St. Joseph beat Coldwater, 14-1, to advance.
As the celebration in Chelsea was just getting started, Maloney remained focus on the ultimate goal.
“It feels great, but we have to get some more,” Maloney said. “We’re not done yet. Tuesday we’ll play hard and be ready to go.”