• What: Division 1 baseball regional at Grand Ledge
• Who: Howell vs. Holt in the second regional semifinal.
• When: At or a little after noon
• Broadcast: Begins at 11:50 or about 10 minutes before gametime, whichever is first. Click here for the link!
• Records: Howell is 30-9-1; Holt is 28-7
The Rams have a pitching staff that has thrown 16 shutouts this season and have an ERA of 1.49, and that includes a 14-0 shellacking by DeWitt in Wednesday’s Diamond Classic championship game. Seven of those shutouts came in a seven-day period beginning April 29. They included a sweep of Lansing Sexton, both three-inning games with scores of 29-0 and 40-0. None of the seven games went longer than five innings, with Holt outscoring its foes 132-0. That’s a big reason why the Rams have a team ERA of 1.58.
Jesse Heikkinen has 82 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched, with a 1.33 ERA and 0.79 ERA. He’s also hitting .389 with a team-high 37 RBIs in the No. 2 spot in the order. Robert Butterson (7-1, 2.03 ERA) has allowed five walks in 41 2/3 innings, and Burrell Jones (5-2, 51 2/3 IP, 68 strikeouts) is another strong pitcher who is hitting .364 this season. Tyler Brown (.441 average) and Spencer Baldwin (.485) lead a Holt offense that’s hitting .over .350 as a team and has drawn 120 walks.
The last time
Howell lost to Holt 4-3 in the semifinals at Grand Ledge in 2015, then beat Holt 6-4 in last year’s regional semifinal. “The key is playing quality baseball,” Howell co-coach Jason Ladd said. “You’ve got to move the guy over at the right time. You’ve got to execute the small things. Make plays. You can’t give them extra outs.”
On the mound
Heikkinen, who pitched a shutout on Monday against Grand Ledge in the Diamond Classic, is expected to start Saturday. Sam Weatherly is likely to get the start if that happens, but Evan Maize, who was brilliant in last week’s districts, also could get the start.
“Both (Blake) Arnold and Ty Weatherly are undefeated this year,” Ladd said, “so we’re not afraid to go to either one.”
The winner will face either Grand Ledge (30-7) or Portage Central (19-17) in the regional championship game. The winner plays in a Division 1 quarterfinal at Chelsea on Tuesday.