Norway picks up D4 quarterfinal win, advances to semis

The 2024 Norway varsity baseball team, back from left, Landon Amundson, Cole Baij, Hayden Amundson, Alex Ortman, Ian Popp, Maddex Burklund, Elliott Kraemer and Carter Cazzola; front from left, Bryce Adams, Owen Baij, Cameron Varda, Landon Ross and AJ Gallino, poses with the MHSAA Division 4 Regional 26 trophy in Harbor Springs on Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

HARBOR SPRINGS — Next stop, East Lansing.

At least that’s the case for the Norway varsity baseball team after it beat Onaway, 7-1, in the MHSAA Division 4 state quarterfinals on Saturday in Harbor Springs.

The Knights also picked up a MHSAA Division 4 Regional 26 title during their trip to the Lower Peninsula, beating Rudyard 3-2.

Now, Norway (27-3-1) turns its attention to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School at Michigan State University’s Drayton McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing at 10:30 a.m. Central time Friday. It is the Knights’ first trip to the state baseball Final Four in school history.

“Just a surreal experience for our kids, with more special moments to come,” Norway head coach Tony Adams said. “Our players wanted to raise the bar in our program and they made it their mission all year long.

“Our pitching was fantastic all day long, our defense was good for the most part and our offense limited the strikeouts today and came through when needed. It feels great to finally get to the Final Four at MSU.”

State Quarterfinals

With its fifth regional title secured, the Knights turned their attention to Onaway in the MHSAA D4 state baseball quarterfinals.

Although Norway’s offense struggled to get going in its previous two games, that wasn’t the case against the Cardinals, as it went to work in the bottom of the first.

Two walks and an Owen Baij single setup Cole Baij with a bases-loaded situation. He came through with a single of his own, scoring Landon Amundson. Then the Cardinals’ catcher committed an error on the same play allowing Owen Baij to score. Bryce Adams followed all the commotion up with a bunt that scored Alex Ortman.

When the dust settled, Norway led 3-0.

“We were able to get off to a great start in the first inning after it felt like we had one minute to celebrate the regional,” coach Adams said.

Ian Popp stole home in the second to kick off the Knights’ scoring. Lanson Amundson scored on an Onaway error. Cole Baij drove in a run with a single and Norway led 7-0 after two innings.

“Another huge inning in the second,” coach Adams said, “and we were pretty confident Cole Baij and our defense could get the job done. Our kids handled the trip and the quick turnaround really well.”

The Cardinals scored a run in the fourth and that was all she wrote on their season as the Knights picked up the 7-1 victory.

Cole Baij picked up the win for Norway. He struck out seven in six innings while surrendering one run and one walk.

He also led the Knights’ offense with two RBIs. Adams also recorded one RBI. Landon Amundson and Ortman each drew a walk.

Regional Championship

Rudyard was first to the plate in the opening inning and it didn’t waste time getting going. A stolen base plated one runner, however, the Bulldogs rally ended on the basepaths as they took a 1-0 lead.

“We dealt with some adversity in the top of the first, but our kids responded in the bottom half with a big inning to get the lead,” coach Adams said.

Norway responded in the next half inning. It started with a Rudyard error that allowed Landon Amundson to score.

In the next at-bat, the Bulldogs committed another error and Owen Baij scored to give the Knights a 2-1 advantage.

Neither team would score again until Rudyard came back to the dish in the fifth.

The Bulldogs tied things at two with a single.

But their run would end shortly after, with the bases loaded, when the Norway defense turned a double play and ended the frame.

“Rudyard put pressure on us in the fifth and our kids did a great job of keeping their composure and limiting the damage to only one run,” coach Adams said. “Alex Ortman and Ian Popp were perfect in twisting a double play with the bases loaded.”

With one runner on and two outs, the pressure was on as Carter Cazzola stepped into the batter’s box. After taking a ball, Cazzola sent a screaming ground ball to left field bringing Cole Baij in to score and giving the Knights a 3-2 advantage.

“Carter Cazzola had a great at bat in the sixth to give us the lead and Cole Baij was able to lock it down in the seventh,” coach Adams said.

Cole Baij shut the door on the Bulldogs and Norway advanced to the state quarterfinals.

“Our kids grinded like they have all year and it was awesome to get our fifth regional title in our 15th season,” coach Adams said.

Cole Baij picked up the win on the mound. He allowed one hit in 2.2 innings of work. Owen Baij started the game for the Knights. He struck out four in 4.1 innings while surrendering one earned run.

“We decided to go with Owen Baij on the mound to start the game and he was phenomenal in tough conditions against a very good team,” coach Adams said. “He showed a lot of composure for a sophomore on that stage.”

Offensively, Cazzola led Norway with one RBI. Cameron Varda, Ortman, Cole Baij and Cazzola each tallied a hit. Varda, Landon Amundson and Adams drew one walk apiece.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to show the correct date for the Knights’ semifinal contest in East Lansing.


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