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Bulldog baseball finding its stride

Drew Habel at bat.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity baseball team is slowly finding its stride in the early part of the season. The Bulldogs have experienced various highs and lows after starting the season with a dominating 12-2 victory over Coldwater. The team has a mix of experience levels this season. Head Coach Brian Deal said all have contributed.

“Overall, we think it’s a pretty good group, we just haven’t really quite hit our stride yet, putting everything together, playing a clean game offensively or defensively yet,” Deal said after a doubleheader against Paw Paw suspended play in the second game. “That’s the one thing I’m still kind of waiting for us to do is put together a total game.”

In the meantime, the boys are showcasing some exciting baseball. The most notable game of the season was a nine-inning thriller on the road against Otsego. The Bulldogs were down 10-2 in the third inning before Jackson Bowles came in at relief and helped lead the comeback. Bowles only allowed three hits and an intentional walk as the Bulldogs came back for an 18-10 win.

The excellence in pitching is a carry-over from last season when Vicksburg also had tremendous depth. In the first game against Paw Paw, Caden Bowling only gave up one run in the game before Bowles came in at relief. He also gave up only a single run as the Bulldogs pulled away for a 4-1 win.

“To shut them down from the pitching perspective was incredible,” Deal said. “We had a timely hit with Brady Young putting the ball in play, and getting a base hit, scoring that run. That kind of got us the lead 2-1.

“And then we got some more guys on base, and Drew Habel came up and gave us some insurance runs with hitting the double and scoring two to make it 4-1. I just think we stayed persistent throughout the whole game and just kept battling in the batter’s box.”

There was a scary moment for the Bulldog faithful in the second game with the score 1-0 in Paw Paw’s favor. With one on, one out, and Carter Brown already on base, Habel took a hard pitch to the face which took him out of the game. Bryce Smith came on as a relief runner in his place. Logan Cohrs batted next and hit an RBI to bring Brown home to tie things up. Connor DeVries then brought Smith home on a ground out to make it 2-1.

The injury to Habel seemed to rattle the team. They gave eight runs over the next inning and half before the game was suspended with the score 9-2. Deal said the injury took the wind out of their sails, but he used it as a teaching moment.

“The thing I appreciate about it is our guys, they care more about Drew than they care more about winning a baseball game, which is commendable,” Deal said. “We talked about it. You’re going to have adversity in sports and you’re going to have adversity in life. It’s how do you handle it? How do you bounce back and get ready to go?”

Cohrs came in as catcher for the rest of the game and Deal said they are ready to use him if Habel is out for an extended period. Cohrs made first team all-conference as a freshman two years ago but was then sidelined with an arm injury. In the meantime, the team will stay focused one game at a time as they try to capture the conference and hopefully, their third district in a row.

“It’s a good team. They don’t quit,” Deal said.

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