BY DAN STICKRADT
TROY — In the preseason, none of the coaches in the rugged OAA Red Division felt that Rochester Stoney Creek would have the lasting power to win a league championship. Now, the Cougars are the ones laughing.
Stoney Creek put the finishing touches on the outright league title Wednesday, holding on for a 10-9 victory over host Troy Athens.
The Cougars, who extended their school record for wins in the season, improved to 22-7 overall and finished 13-3 in the league. Even if Stoney Creek would have lost Wednesday’s make-up game with Athens, the Cougars would have finished in a co-championship with Lake Orion, which finished alone in second place at 12-4.
“This is a great accomplishment, especially considering how good the league is and that nobody picked us to win it,” smiled Stoney Creek coach Clint Rodger, who has coached the Cougars all nine years of the existence of the school.
Stoney Creek won the OAA Division II titles in 2006 and 2007, but this is their first title in the league’s upper division and third overall league championship in nine seasons.
“We knew we had a share at least with Lake Orion and it was ours (outright) if we won this game,” added Rodger. “I think it means a lot to win this league.”
With many schools in the league having a strong tradition of winning league titles and advancing far into the postseason, the Cougars hope to join that group. Stoney Creek wrote another chapter in perhaps the best season in school history to date.
Stoney Creek used six different pitchers to keep Athens at bay. The Cougars pitching staff issued eight hits but overcame five errors and three balks.
“We used a lot of guys to try to keep everyone fresh,” said Rodger. “We got a lot of guys some innings. We know we have districts coming up on Saturday, so we didn’t want to pitch anyone too long.”
Stoney Creek will face Rochester Adams on Saturday at Romeo with the host Bulldogs and Oxford matching up in the other district semifinal. The Cougars prevailed in their final tune-up Wednesday.
Ben Yax, who leads the team with a .480 batting average, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to gain the save on the mound. Trent Drumheller, who has not started a game all season, pitched only the fourth inning but gained the win, his fourth as a relief pitcher the past two weeks for Stoney Creek.
“He’s the vulture,” laughed Rodger. “The kid comes in and gives us solid innings whenever we need him to.”
Stoney Creek never trailed, although Athens was able to push three across the plate, two via balks, in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to one run. The Hawks (18-10, 10-6) came up a run short of forcing extra innings.
The Cougars plated four runs in the first, highlighted by a two-run double by catcher Anthony Gonzales (3-for-4) and RBI hits from Drumheller and Zak Northrup. Stoney Creek tacked on five more runs in the fifth inning to go up 9-2, with Northrup coming through with a bases-loaded double to clear the sacs and highlight the frame.
Jake Miller also added an RBI single in the sixth for Stoney Creek.
Sam Koelzer had a pair of hits for Athens, including a three-run double in the fifth. Grant Sweeney and Corey Faw also had RBI singles for the Red Hawks, who will face Utica Eisenhower in Saturday’s district semifinals at Utica.
Stoney Creek can now look to contending for the first district title in school history.
“We’ve never even won a district game,” said Rodger, whose team has lost in the district semifinal eight straight years. “We hope to finally get over (the hump) Saturday and get to the final and hopefully win a district championship.”