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Hackett baseball starts hot, rolls to first-ever state finals

Irish mercy Marlette, 11-1 in six innings
Hackett Catholic rolls to state finals
Posted at 7:31 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 23:00:42-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — It's hard to draw up a better start for the Hackett Catholic baseball team in Friday afternoon's Division 4 state semifinal.

The Irish would send ten hitters to the plate on just two hits but would score seven runs in the inning, including a Brenden Collins two RBI single as they took the lead, 7-0 after an inning of play.

Hackett Catholic 11, Marlette 1

Meanwhile, the team's top pitcher, Sam Shea, was pulled after just one inning of work on 28 pitches and two strikeouts to preserve him for Saturday's state championship game due to a 30-pitch limit on one day's rest.

The Irish would tack on two runs in the bottom of the third to take a 9-0 lead, but it would take three more innings for the mercy rule to come into effect.

Leading 9-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning with two runners on base, Zach Johnson would groundout to third base, but both runners would come around to score.

Hackett would walk off with the 11-1 win to lead the Irish to the program's first-ever state championship appearance.

"I told you I'm 77 years old," chuckled head coach Smiley Verduzco, "but oh my gosh, I feel like a youngster. You watch these boys play and see the energy they get, it's unbelievable."

Verduzco says despite the seven-run first inning, he wanted his team to keep the pedal down throughout the game.

"These guys really earned it; they worked really hard all year. For a win like this here at Michigan State against a good team, it doesn't get any better than that," Verduzco added.

Hackett Catholic walks it off
Hackett Catholic's Zach Johnson gets showered in water and celebrates the walk-off mercy victory in Friday's game.

Senior catcher Steven Widger would go 3 for 4 with a run scored and RBI in the game, but his focus is on tomorrow's game and getting the team's ace back for Saturday.

"That's huge because he's our number one, [Alex] Blasen and [Brenden] Collins are great pitchers, but Sam [Shea] has been our ace all year, so that's a huge momentum swing for us," Widger said after the game.

And he says that changes the team's mindset completely going into the state championship.

Steven Widger after his RBI Single
Hackett Catholic senior Steven Widger after his RBI single on Friday.

"We were coming into the Saturday game thinking we'd have to put the bat on the ball a lot, but now we have Sam, so confidence is through the roof right now," Widger said.

The Irish will take on Cardinal Mooney who beat Glen Lake in the second semifinal. The finals will be on Saturday at 5:00 PM at Michigan State University.

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