HANCOCK — It was a day of firsts at the Driving Park ball diamond on Friday: Houghton and Hancock varsity and junior varsity faced off for the first time in more than four years.
The Gremlins (7-0) beat the Bulldogs 12-0 in Game 1, and Hancock earned a 14-13 victory over the Gremlin JV team.
The last time these two high schools faced each other in baseball was in 2018. The problem was simple. Hancock didn’t have the numbers to field a ball club in recent years.
Hancock graduate (2018) and former baseball player, Travis Pietila is the coach of the Bulldogs.
“We have 15 guys who want to play and are getting better every day” he said. “Our struggle has been being able to go out to train and do things the real way. For that first month or so, we were stuck in the gym, and it’s very hard to replicate anything in the gym.
It was only their third and fourth games of the season. They lost their first two games against Iron Mountain. Pietila was happy to get the victory in the JV game.
Houghton’s Kade Farrell was the hero of the opener. He threw a full hit winner. In six innings, he struck out seven and walked only two. Hancock’s Zachary Geborkoff spoiled the no-hitter in the third inning with a base hit to the left side. Additionally, Farrell went 3-4 at home plate with an RBI.
“Kade Hat” said Houghton head coach Joe Romano. “He was gorgeous on the mound and impressive at home plate, and that’s what we need.”
Despite the loss, Pietila and his coaches were happy with what they saw.
“I think we played a solid game” Pietila said. “We lined the ball up cleanly. Credit goes to Houghton because their pitcher kept us on our toes and allowed us to hit some ground balls.
Another first in the afternoon was a JV baseball game featuring Houghton’s underclassmen taking on Hancock. According to Romano, the baseball team had about 30 players of all skill levels come to practice last month — a record.
“We never had a JV team, and I am grateful to the administration for allowing us to form a younger team and continue to develop the program.”
In the second game, it was the members of the junior circuit who were able to show their talent, and they did quite well with a lot of points. The Bulldogs started with a five-point lead. Two walks and a triple from receiver Luke Mikkola are the cause. Interestingly, Mikkola was only one homer away from hitting for the cycle as he had a single and a double in the afternoon.
Houghton countered with two of their own. Both teams scored four runs in the second frame to make it a 9-6 Hancock tilt. While the Gremlins would go on to score another seven runs in the final innings, that wouldn’t be enough and the Bulldogs would earn their first win of the season at 14-13.
“I liked how well we hit the ball in that second game” Pietila said. “Their pitcher threw shots, and we put the ball in play and good things happened.”
HHS 121 026 – 12
HCHS 000,000 – 0
HCHS 540 320 – 14
HHS 240 340 – 13