Defending its state title last year, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian High School’s baseball team got off to a troubling 6-12 start.
Grand Rapids Christian High baseball team takes home a second title.Jodi Hall
“A lot of the players coming in were filling the spots from last year’s championship team,” explained coach Brent Gates. “It wasn’t going smooth for us.”
But the Eagles rebounded with a strong playoff run and took home the Division 2 state title for the second year.
“We knew we couldn’t just bow out,” said senior shortstop Joel Schipper, a member of Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. “We came together as a team and we got hot right at the end.”
“They never gave up,” said Gates. “They kept working and never stopped believing that we could go and do what we did.”
Pitcher Austin Batka took a no-hitter into the last inning, capping off a playoff run full of shutouts and complete games from the Eagles’ pitching staff, including senior Alex VandeVusse.
“When you have that kind of pitching performance in a time when it’s a high-pressure situation, they came through immensely,” Gates said.
Schipper said that Gates and the rest of the coaching staff played a major role in the team’s turnaround.
“The coaching staff was really huge this year,” Schipper said. “They helped us believe in each other and they believed in us.”