Despite high hopes heading into the NJCAA Region 12 Tournament, the Sinclair Tartan Pride was quickly sent home on May 14.
The No. 4 seeded Tartan Pride were eliminated in the double-elimination tournament in Battle Creek, Mich. after falling in their opening two games. After averaging nearly nine runs per contest through the regular season, Sinclair’s offense stalled in both losses as the Tartan Pride collected only five runs and 10 hits in the tournament.
“We weren’t the same offensive team,” Sinclair coach Steve Dintaman said. “Usually, a couple guys struggle and then a couple guys lead, but we couldn’t get a lot of production from some of our big bats. Its just one of those things.”
Muskegon 4, Sinclair 2
In the opening regional game for the Tartan Pride, Sinclair found itself in a 1-0 deficit after Muskegon outfielder Brandon Bongard hit a leadoff home run off pitcher Justin Schultheiss to start the bottom of the first.
The Pride fought back to knot the score at 1-1 on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded by shortstop Brandon Napier. Without the wind blowing in, Dintaman said Napier’s fly ball was a certain grand slam.
“It was a no doubter, but it didn’t go anywhere,” he said. “That would have been a huge momentum booster.”
Muskegon added another run in the third inning on a throwing error by catcher Corey Throckmorton and two runs in the fourth on a sacrifice bunt and a RBI single.
Muskegon pitching kept the Sinclair offense calm until the top of the seventh. Down to their final out and facing a two-run deficit, the Tartan Pride had runners on second and third with outfielder Clay Ragland at the plate. Ragland grounded out to third to leave the tying run stranded in scoring position.
Ragland and outfielder Zach Stewart, the first two hitters in Sinclair’s lineup, finished 0-for-7.
Schultheiss pitched six innings, giving up three earned and striking out seven.
Kellogg 6, Sinclair 3
With their backs abruptly against the wall in the loser’s bracket, the Tartan Pride faced Kellogg Community College in a rematch of last year’s Region 12 Championship game.
After a quick first inning, Kellogg batted around as they touched Sinclair pitcher Zach Botjer for five runs in the top of the second with three singles, a double and a three-run home run.
Kellogg added another run in the third on an RBI double and Sinclair saw their hopes of a World Series run fade.
The Tartan Pride added two runs in the bottom of the third and another in the fifth, but it was too late. Dintaman said the team wasn’t accustomed to hardship, so being in the position the team found itself in was not a comfortable feeling.
“There wasn’t a lot of adversity this year,” he said. “Outside of the opening weekend (against Young Harris Community College), we never lost back-to-back games this year.”
Kellogg made its way through the loser’s bracket and met Vincennes University in the championship game. Vincennes, who Sinclair defeated in all four matchups this season, earned a World Series berth with a 9-7 victory.
“It was a shock for everybody, especially after seeing Vincennes win it,” Dintaman said. “They’ve got a good program and do a lot of good things. Their leaders stepped up.”
Although Sinclair didn’t perform as well as they had hoped in the Regional Tournament, the Tartan Pride finished the season with a 42-10 record, earned their first national ranking in school history, swept the OCCAC tournament and postseason awards and are sending six players to four-year universities, as of May 21.
Dintaman said he would trade 30 of the team’s wins for a World Series berth in a heartbeat.
“Overall, it was definitely a good year,” Dintaman said. “I know this team is extremely disappointed now, but it will still go down as one of the better in school history.”