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Aug, 2022

Rockford Little League 11U Black District 9 Champs, State Runner-Up

Greater Bay does it again, winning Little League 11U state title over Rockford

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  • Published: Jul. 26, 2022, 4:13 p.m.
Greater Bay

Greater Bay celebrates its Little League state tournament championship for age 11-and-under. (Provided by Nick Southern)

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MOUNT PLEASANT, MI – They fired their gloves in the air, soared into a 13-player convergence at the pitching mound and floated around the field like their feet were no longer touching the ground.


The Greater Bay all-stars deserved to feel sky high after this one.


Withstanding the most tenuous of situations – holding a 1-0 lead from the first inning until the final out – Greater Bay edged Rockford to capture the Little League baseball state championship for age 11-and-under at Mount Pleasant’s Union Township Little League.


After winning it all a year ago in the 10-and-under division, the combined Bay City Northwest and Essexville-Hampton all-stars returned to duplicate that feat – and finally allowed themselves to let loose like the boys they are.


“They went through it last year, so they weren’t going to let any kind of pressure get to them,” Greater Bay coach Nick Southern said. “Someone asked after the (semifinal) game why the guys weren’t really hyped up. They were treating it like any other game and just going out and playing ball -- like 11-year-olds do.”


FINAL Little League state tournament results for 11-under


Greater Bay joins the Rockford teams of 2018-19 and the Midland Northeast teams of 2012-13 as the only programs to follow up a 10-and-under state title with an 11-and-under crown. Since the 11U tourney began in 2004, only Midland Northeast has completed the sweep by also winning the Major Baseball title as 12-year-olds.


And that’s already a mission on the docket for Greater Bay.


“They deserve this,” Southern said. “They can enjoy this experience, but they were already chirping on the way out of the dugout about next year.”


Longtime rival leagues in Bay County, Bay City Northwest and Essexville-Hampton forged a postseason partnership last season as Greater Bay. It has paid off in back-to-back state tournament bids at the 10-and-under and 11-and-under levels.

Greater Bay

The Greater Bay all-stars display the spoils of victory after winning the Little League state championship for age 11-and-under. (Provided by Nick Southern)


It was highlighted by the 10-and-under state title a year ago. And when nine players from that squad rejoined Greater Bay as 11s this season, the quest began anew for the mixed-league team.


“Looking at the calendar, these guys have spent the past six weeks together just grinding,” Southern said. “They went through a lot of practices and made a lot of sacrifices. They had an end goal in mind. They wanted to repeat, and they did it.”


Greater Bay completed the task in undefeated fashion, but it took a gritty performance in the finale to finish the job.


Taking on a Rockford team that was attempting to become the first program to win three 11-and-under state titles – after winning it all in 2014 and 2019 – Greater Bay expected to have its hands full. But few could have forecast the drama that played out.


Just two batters into the game, Greater Bay owned a 1-0 lead as Brady Irrer stroked a leadoff double, stole third then scored on an RBI groundout by Brody Francis in the first inning. Remarkably, that’s how the game would remain for six intense innings.


“The way we were hitting all weekend, I thought we’d continue to hit the cover off the ball,” Southern said. “We only had a few hits sprinkled here and there, but it was just enough to get the job done.


“We’ve always preached that defense wins championships, and we did our job today. The defense really stepped up in a 1-0 game.”


Carter Maze delivered a championship performance on the hill for Greater Bay. The left-hander fired a two-hitter with five strikeouts over five scoreless innings to keep Rockford on zero. Ryder Southern came on to pitch a perfect sixth for the save in a high-pressure situation.


“Carter pitched an amazing game and Ryder came in and did the job at the end,” said Nick Southern, who coaches along with Matt Irrer and Scott Debo.


“Our pitching really came through in this tournament. We had guys who stepped up and threw who hadn’t pitched a lot, and that’s what got us to the game today in such good position.”


Rockford’s pitching was nearly equal to the task, holding Greater Bay on one run to keep it an intense ballgame to the finish. Huck Schuler went the distance, scattering seven hits and striking out three.


Brady Irrer led the Greater Bay lineup with two hits while Easton Londry, Grayson Ashlock, Brooks Bernard, Maze and Francis each came through with one hit.


Rockford got its lone hits from Brennen Stout and Hayden Miller.


And when Greater Bay shortstop Logan Debo made a smooth play on a ground ball to bring the game to an end, a repeat celebration was in the works for the team of Grayson Ashlock, Brooks Bernard, Logan Debo, Brody Francis, Brayden Grzegorczyk, Brady Irrer, Ethan Jankoska, Easton Londry, Kwess Mathews, Carter Maze, Brady Pett, Stephan Rogers and Ryder Southern.


Greater Bay became the third Bay County team to win an 11-and-under state championship, joining the 2004 Bay City Northwest squad and the 2017 Bay City Southwest squad. Bay County has won 13 state titles in the 12-under, 11-under and 10-under divisions combined.


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