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Mick McCabe: Warren De La Salle goes from 2-14 to title game


1:00 AM, Jun. 17, 2012 EDT

The Pilots weren't happy with their second-place medals Saturday, but coming from 2-14 start, they made an incredible run to the Division 1 state championship game in Battle Creek. / JULIAN H. GONZALEZ/Detroit Free Press

B ATTLE CREEK -- The Warren De La Salle baseball season that by all rights should have ended weeks ago finally came to a conclusion Saturday in the most unlikely place -- the Division 1 state championship game.

These were the same Pilots that were 2-14 and headed nowhere except last place in the Central Division of the Detroit Catholic League.

But these guys were like the teenage boy trying to date your daughter -- they refused to go away.

"The more we talked to people about De La Salle the scarier it got for me and the other two coaches," said Hudsonville coach Dave Van Noord. "They were a team that got hot at the right time and had a lot of talent. We were pretty worried. We knew this would be a battle."

It was a battle, a battle Hudsonville finally won, 9-6. It was a battle that should have ended when Tyler Baar blasted a three-run home run to give Hudsonville a 4-2 lead in the top of the third, but in the bottom of the third, De La Salle tied it.

"They were still swinging," said Hudsonville sophomore Logan Magsig, who recorded the save. "Looking at their record, I didn't expect this out of them, but they were a great team."

Looking at De La Salle's 20-23-1 record, you never would call the Pilots great, but at some point this spring they discovered a way to add the word great to their vocabulary.

* Full coverage: Get all your high school baseball, softball and soccer state finals updates here!

At some point, the seniors stepped forward and said enough was enough, and they began what was the most unlikely run in baseball state tournament history.

The Pilots almost became the first baseball team with a losing record to win a state title in the largest class or division. But that didn't mean much to them after losing a game in which they committed five errors.

"They don't understand right now, they're hurting pretty bad," said second-year coach Matt Cook. "It might take a day or weeks or maybe years before they realize what they were able to accomplish today is pretty special, especially where they came from."

They came from last place to being a few runs away from state champions.

It was almost like the Lions being 0-16 in the regular season but getting into the playoffs and advancing to the Super Bowl.

"Looking back on our season and coming from 2-14 to get here is crazy," said senior Kevin Carroll. "Losing is tough, but still the success of just making it here was great. The overall experience was the whole ride -- staying with your friends in the hotel, being together every night. Playing here whether it's a loss or a win, it's an experience none of us will ever forget."

That is what most people don't understand about high school athletics.

It isn't necessarily the wins and losses, it is the journey you take with your friends. And the Pilots had quite a journey, experiencing the best postseason of any De La Salle team this school year.

"I couldn't be more proud of the way we played, the way the seniors stepped up," Carroll said. "In particular, my really good friend Joe Loria played his heart out. Coming back after not being able to play for more than three-quarters of the season, he still came to practice every day for us, for this. And it paid off. I know it's hard to look at it right now, but we accomplished a lot."

They accomplished more than any last-place team should accomplish.

Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or mmccabe@freepress.com . Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.

 

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