SAGINAW, MI – The Hemlock football team lost its final football game of the 2018 season, a 54-0 crushing by Montrose in a Division 6 playoff game.

And its baseball program has never been better.

Hemlock advances to a Division 3 baseball regional final at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Saginaw Valley State University after knocking off Laingsburg, 9-2, in a regional semifinal game Wednesday at Valley Lutheran.

“A couple of years ago, the football team got beaten badly in a playoff game, and after that (football coach) Adam Clark put in a intense, year-round lifting program,” Hemlock baseball coach Toby Larkin said. “It has really improved Hemlock sports across the board.

“Our kids are stronger. They avoid injuries more. They come back stronger after throwing 105 pitches. Obviously, they lift differently for baseball than they do for football. Instead of doing 10 reps of 250 pounds, they do 20 reps of 150. They’re actually probably going to lift tonight.”

Hemlock will face Richmond, an 8-5 winner Wednesday over Royal Oak Shrine. If Hemlock wins, it advances to the Division 3 quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at SVSU. In the other bracket, Reese plays New Lothrop in the 10 a.m. regional final, with the winner advancing to the 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal game. Reese advanced with a 9-3 win over Cass City.

The Huskies, who reached the quarterfinals in 2017, leaned on ace Max Dinninger Wednesday. After throwing a shutout to win the district title Saturday, Dinninger added four shutout innings Wednesday, leaving with a 5-0 lead.

“The kid is just a competitor,” Larkin said. “He works so hard. He’s one of the players who’s always in the weight room. It makes a difference. He threw 88 pitches Saturday and had no problem coming back today.”

Dinninger allowed two hits in four innings Wednesday, striking out eight with no walks. He got into trouble in the second inning when a leadoff double by Ty Randall and a single by Nick Woodbury put runners on second and third with nobody out. But Dinninger struck out the side, starting a string of seven consecutive strikeouts.

Anthony Zechmeister replaced Dinninger and gave up two runs in two innings before Justin Stedry finished out the ninth.

“That’s how you play baseball,” Larkin said. “We got our pitcher a nice lead. They came back with two runs, and we answered with four. If you do that, you’re going to win baseball games.”

Hemlock improved to 33-4 with the win, while Laingsburg finished at 13-16-1.

“We were peaking at the right time … during the regular season, we probably left six wins out there that we lost,” Laingsburg coach Todd Randall said. “Against Hemlock, we gave up too many free 90s. They got their first two runs off of walks.

“Their starting pitcher really brought it, but I thought all three of their pitchers brought it. They threw well. We got a few runs and had their second pitcher (Zechmeister) in trouble, but then he bore down and stopped us.”

Shane Renas led the Hemlock offense, going 2-for-2 with a two-run homer and a walk. Blake Stockford added two hits, including a two-run triple, while Corbin Larkin was 1-2 with two runs scored and an RBI. Dinninger also drove in two runs.

“The lifting program has really helped all the sports,” Toby Larkin said. “That’s how you build a program. I’m a huge fan.”


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