By DOUG DONNELLY
Whiteford baseball coach Terry Pant was looking like a genius after Saturday’s district championship game against Blissfield.
Pant, in his 11th season as the Bobcat baseball coach, decided to shuffle his lineup for the finals against the Royals, moving Levi Hillard up in the lineup and moving Luke Rasor into a new spot in the order. The adjustments worked perfectly as Hillard had two hits and three RBI and Rasor had three hits and two RBIs as the Bobcats beat the Royals 11-4 and won its first-ever Division 3 district title.
“Sometimes you just make some minor adjustments,” Pant said. “Baseball is like a chess match. You do little things sometimes. I just had a feeling.”
Pant made all the right moves on the day as the Bobcat secured their fifth district crown since Pant has been head coach. The Bobcats beat Erie Mason in the opener, 6-5, taking the lead on a sacrifice fly by freshman Nate Stevens in the eighth inning. He also was the winning pitcher, taking over for Hillard after he had pitched six strong innings.
“I’m not afraid to put him out there just because he is a freshman,” Pant said. “He throws strikes. We know he’s not going to walk anyone.”
Cole Giesige had three hits in the game and Hillard and Cole Crouch two each.
Blissfield got to the finals with a 6-2 win over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. The Royals’ ace, Brenden Holland, started and went 5.2 innings, striking out five and scattering seven hits. Ethan Stines came in to relief him and got the final four outs. Jack Deatrick had three hits for Blissfield, which won for the 23rd time on the season.
In the finals, Pant went with his ace, Giesige, and Blissfield head coach Eric Schmidt countered with Deatrick a rising sophomore. Blissfield jumped out to a 1-0 lead and was up 4-2 after four innings. The Bobcats were down to their final six outs when the lid came off the scoreboard for Whiteford, who scored nine times in the sixth inning to take the lead for good.
Carter Ruehle led off the sixth with a single and Giesige’s single put two runners on. Logan Tammerine loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch. Hillard singled to tie the game, then Luke Rasor brought in the go-ahead run with a single himself.
With two outs, the Bobcats kept hitting. Shea Ruddy and Giesige again added hits while Cooper and Carter Ruehle drew walks. Whiteford also got out of a rundown when two Blissfield players collided on the field.
“When that happened, I knew we had them,” Pant said.
Giesige, who now has nine wins on the season, also leads the team in batting at .423. Tammerine is second at .400.
Pant said the Bobcats are loose and play with confidence.
“I have the luxury of having a lot of pitching,” he said. “We are hitting the ball hard, too. That is the difference. It was big for us to beat Blissfield. We’ve only beaten them one time since I’ve been coaching and that was a regular season game. To get past them and win a district is a big deal.”
Whiteford will take a 25-6 record into the regional semifinal Wednesday against LCAA champion Onsted. The regional finals and quarterfinal game is Saturday at Adrian College.