BATTLE CREEK (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Six Bay City John Glenn errors and a key relief pitching performance by senior Kurt Hoekstra helped Grand Rapids Christian to the Division 2 baseball title with a 6-1 victory Saturday at Bailey Park.
The win took the sting out of last year's championship loss to St. Clair for the Eagles (36-5).
Glenn's Sam Brooks tied the game 1-1 with a double in the fourth and moved to third on an error by Hoekstra with one out.
Eagles coach Brent Gates then inserted Hoekstra, the team's starting shortstop, to pitch. He promptly got the final two outs and kept Brooks stranded at third to keep the game tied. He eventually went 3 2/3 innings, giving up no hits and striking out five.
"David (VanVliet) did a great job for us early in the game, but Kurt's the guy that has done it all year," said Gates. "He's the guy we usually use as our closer, more of a sixth or seventh inning guy. We've also stretched him out during the year. Kurt's our guy. In that situation that's the guy we want out there."
Hoekstra said he was fresh because he pitched just a couple innings Friday.
"It paid off because I was ready to go early and finish it out," said Hoekstra. "I know if they get a hit that's the best I could do as far as having as little damage as possible, but I was able to leave the guy at third. I had everything working today. Last year we were on the other side watching the team cheer like we did today. Right when we lost we went to work because we wanted to be the team cheering."
Christian loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth and after David Pluymert struck out, Alex VandeVusse laid down a perfect bunt to score a run and it appeared the Bobcats would get out of the inning when Travis Kraai bounced to short, but a wild throw allowed two runs to score, giving the Eagles a 4-1 lead.
Three errors in the seventh led to two runs and a commanding 6-1 lead by the winners.
Christian got a tremendous defensive play from first baseman VandeVusse, who nearly had his head taken off on a shot by Sam Brooks. He gathered himself and turned in a 3-6-3 double play to end the first inning.
"That was a web gem,'' said Gates.
VandeVusse said it was a survival move.
"That was brutal," he said. "It was right there and all of a sudden it popped up right in my face. I didn't know what to do so I stuck my hand out there and it stuck in my hand. I threw it to second and I said, 'oh, I better get back' and Kurt made a nice play and throw."
BY PERRY A. FERRELL - DETROIT FREE PRESS