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PREP BASEBALL: Warriors get Whitehall in Cadillac

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June is becoming a familiar month for the Chippewa Hills baseball team.

Last weekend, the Warriors earned their third straight district title with home wins over Tri-County and Grant.

Now they have their sights set on a bigger goal; winning a regional championship and returning to the Division 2 quarterfinals.

Chippewa Hills’ (24-7) quest begins today at 10 a.m. against Whitehall (15-14) in the first of two semifinals from Cadillac High School.

Gladwin (14-15-1) will meet Cheboygan (23-6-1) at noon with the winners of those two games to meet for the regional championship and a spot in the D2 quarterfinals at 2 p.m.

“The one thing that I stress with each of my teams every year is that we have to take care of ourselves,” said Chippewa Hills head coach Ben Wright, who’s team captured its sixth straight CSAA title this spring. “We can’t look at other teams and try to match what they do. We have to figure out what we do well and stick to those things and if we do that, we’ll be successful. We’re looking to pitch strikes, pick the ball up and put together quality at-bats.”

As for today’s opponent, Whitehall defeated Ludington 12-6 in a district semifinal and bested site host Muskegon Orchard View 13-4 to earn a regional spot.

“Whitehall does play a tough schedule but you can also throw records out right now,” Wright said. “They won a district so we know we’re going to have to play good baseball obviously and that’s what our plan is.”

After initially getting off to slow a start in part due to Mother Nature, Chippewa Hills has cruised along to another 20-plus win year.

“The success, after we got into our routine because of the poor spring, has come from quality at-bats, putting the ball in play and putting pressure on teams and we’ve had some pretty good pitching and defensive play too,” Wright said. “Last year we relied solely on our pitching and hitting. This year, our defense has helped us out a lot. In our district, we won a 3-2 ball game and we made a couple nice defensive plays in that game so we’ve picked it up a bit there. We’re a more complete team. We’re not as powerful as last season but we’re more complete than last year.”

Chippewa Hills may not be as powerful and dominating at the plate as it was a year ago, but make not mistake about it, the Warriors have a bevy of dangerous hitters and return 14 players that saw some action last season.

The Warriors have at least seven hitters batting better than .300, including three in Jake Tarbell, Hunter Conley and Devin Esch that are hitting better than .400

Senior pitcher Jake Tarbell has not only posted impressive numbers on the mound this spring, his offensive numbers are staggering.

Tarbell is currently hitting .510 with 50 hits, 18 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs and has struck out just eight times in 98 at-bats.

“It starts here in practice,” Tarbell said. “We get up early every morning at 7:15 (a.m.) getting ready to go and we’ve just come together as a team throughout the whole year. We put a lot of hard work in at practice and that’s what helped us to win all these games. We’re not the most talented team but we put in the time and learn the fundamentals and that’s what makes us good.”

On the mound, Tarbell has collected a 9-2 record with one save and a 1.98 ERA while fanning 89 batters in 67.1 innings.

Fellow senior pitcher Ty Schafer added that doing the little things right has helped the Warriors find success, especially in the postseason.

“I think it’s all about putting the little things together,” he said. “We’re fundamental enough and all teams have to do the little things and that’s what gets you further in the tournament. That’s what gets you conference and district championship’s.”

Schafer comes in with a 7-1 record and a save with a 2.83 ERA as well as 52 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. At the plate, Schafer is one of those batting .300 or better with his .364 average, 36 hits and 23 RBIs.

Joe Buczek is a sports writer at the Morning Sun. You can reach him at jbuczek@michigannewspapers.com

Last Updated: 6/7/2013 5:30:03 PM EST