Norse Pull Through Against Alpena; Out Of Playoffs

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos taken by Brad Landis, and to hear post-game comments from TJ. Rijpstra, George Cooper, Tyler Darmogray, Zach Gibson, and Manager Mike Pankow.

The Bay College Norse baseball team extended its winning streak to six games on Tuesday, and crossed the 20-win plateau for the first time in program history, with a doubleheader sweep of the Alpena Community College Lumnberjacks, 10-5 and 5-4.

But despite the wins, the Norse were eliminated from NJCAA Region 12 playoff consideration when Mid Michigan clinched the final playoff spot with a doubleheader sweep of its own over Delta College in Mt. Pleasant.

And so while the Norse season will end this weekend after a four-game non-conference series against Detroit's Community Christian College, Bay celebrated several milestones in Tuesday's wins. The Norse finished with a winning record in MCCAA conference games (11-9) and, at the moment, a first-ever winning overall record (20-18).

As usual, the Norse didn't make it easy on themselves, as they had to hold off a feisty Alpena team that battled for all 14 innings of Tuesday's doubleheader.

The second game of the doubleheader saw the Norse fall behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning as pitcher George Cooper gave up a double to Alpena's Matt Thompson, and then yielded a two-run homer to Evan Fairbanks.

Bay tied it in the bottom of the first inning, however, as Tyler Darmogray led off with a double, and Josh Blake moved him to third base with a double of his own. They both came home on a sharply-hit single by Cooper, who earlier in the day had been named the MCCAA North Conference Player of the Week for his work in last week's six games.

In the third inning, Blake, who himself was conference Player of the Week earlier this season, scored on an RBI single by Zach Gibson, who also earned Player of the Week honors earlier this season. That gave Bay a 3-2 lead after three innings.

Alpena, though, came back to take the lead, just as the Lumberjacks had done in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader. In the fifth inning, Kaden Blaskowski drew a one-out walk, and Mitch Walters followed with a perfect bunt single up the third base line.

With two on, Thompson, the Alpena High School graduate who had a big hand in his team's huge walk-off win against the Norse two weeks ago in Alpena, came through again, with a two-run double. That gave Alpena a 4-3 lead before Cooper got the final two outs of the top of the fifth inning. And then the Norse had a rally of their own.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Gibson led off with a bloop single to right field. He came home on yet another extra base hit from Cooper, a solid shot to the fence that put the Norse on even terms at 4-4. Then with two out, Jace Cota came through with a solid run-scoring single to left field to give the Norse a 5-4 lead.

That was all that Cooper needed, really. He cruised through a 1-2-3 top of the sixth inning, and then in the seventh inning, he got the first two out before he walked Walters. The game ended, though, when catcher Carlson Croes threw out the speedy Walters trying to steal second base.

It was Croes' second throw-out at second in the game, and it sealed Bay's 20th win of the season.

Gibson shook off recent struggles at the plate to register three base hits, and Darmogray and Cooper both had two base hits in the victory.

Cooper earned the complete-game five-hitter with six strikeouts and two walks. Alpena's three pitchers combined for ten strikeouts and walked just one batter. Middle-reliever Wyatt Crawford took the loss for the Lumberjacks.

In the first game, Bay jumped off to an early lead but had to rally after coughing up that lead. Cooper smacked a two-run double in the first inning to bring home Darmogray and Zac Gomerdsall, and then in the third inning, Gomersall doubled after Darmogray beat out an infield hit to start the rally. Blake and Gibson both came through with sacrifice flies to gave Bay a 4-0 lead after three innings.

Hunter Ballantyne, who had thrown six strong innings against Alpena two weeks ago before the bullpen imploded at the end, struggled in this one. He managed three scoreless innings, and yielded a leadoff double to Fairbanks in the fourth inning. Fairbanks scored on a grounder, but Ballantyne entered the fifth inning with a 4-1 lead.

He hit the lead-off man with a pitch and gave up two straight hits, and with one out, Brett Morochan ripped a two-run base hit to bring Alpena to within 4-3. That sent Pankow into the bullpen, bringing in T.J. Rijpstra, who allowed the tying run to score on a wild pitch, and the go-ahead run to come in on a ground-out.

Alpena had the 5-4 lead, but Rijpstra slammed the door from there, throwing the final two innings without a run, helped along by a sweet 3-6-3 double play turned by Gomersall in the sixth inning.

The Norse managed to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when Gomersall legged out a one-out triple. He scored on another sacrifice fly by Blake.

So, it came down to the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Norse broke that 5-5 tie with a five-run rally against the Alpena bullpen. The Feliciano brothers, Lorenzo and Mel, came through with big run-scoring hits at the bottom of the order, and then Darmogray plated two runs with a double that made it 9-5. Blake followed with an RBI single of his own to finish a not-flashy-but-effective three RBI performance, making it 10-5.

Alpena (9-25-1 overall, 3-13 MCCAA) still wouldn't give up, as Thompson and Morochan both got base hits with two out to keep the game going. But Rijpstra coaxed Fairbanks into popping a fly ball to Gibson in center field to end the game.

While all of this was going on, Mid Michigan outlasted Delta College, 7-3, in the first of a doubleheader, and then won the nightcap as well, 4-3.

That gives the Lakers a 12-6 MCCAA record, clinching second spot, with two make-up games against undefeated Grand Rapids Community College on Wednesday. Those two teams will face each other in the regional tournament.

As for Bay, the MCCAA season ended with a winning 11-9 record, and the Norse overall record is 20-18, by far the best in school history.

The Norse will finish out the 2024 campaign with four games at home against the Community Christian College out of Detroit.

The Lions are 8-12 this season, and the school labels itself as “Detroit's JUCO”, with a campus located along Seven Mile Road.

Saturday's doubleheader starts at 2:00, and Sunday's doubleheader starts at noon. The Sunday games can be heard live on WCHT-FM/AM (93.5/600 Escanaba), WMIQ-AM (1450 Iron Mountain), and on-line at, starting at 11:50 ET/10:50 CT.

LISTEN: Mike Pankow GAME TWO post-game comments
LISTEN: Zach Gibson post-game comments
LISTEN: George Cooper post-game comments
LISTEN: Mike Pankow GAME ONE post-game comments
LISTEN: T.J. Rijpstra post-game comments
LISTEN: Tyler Darmogray post-game comments