WHITE LAKE — Any day the Lakeland baseball team gets to steal the “L” at Eagle Park is a good day.
When this day falls on the first Saturday in June, for the neighborhoods, it’s even sweeter.
But when one of the seniors is sent on the traditional run to knock down the American flag and hoist the Lakeland Block ‘L’ flag, then run back over the center field wall, that’s your son…well, that might choke you. a little up to the feeling of deja vu.
Lakeland threw a competitive shutout in Saturday’s District Tournament, beating Milford, 8-0, and Walled Lake Western, 7-0, to claim their second District in four seasons, and first since 2018.
Tate Farquhar, who had a three-hit all game in the semifinal win over the Mavericks, was one of the two to switch flags.
“So we won two of the last four districts. And the last time we did it, my eldest son (Trent) was on the team. He was a junior, and he was one of those who climbed the wall. And now my youngest son (Tate), so special. Special enough for all children. But being a dad for a while, being able to share that with your two sons in the field. And one of our funniest traditions to raise the owl and watch your kids jump back. It’s pretty cool,” Lakeland coach Brad Farquhar said.
“It’s a bit of an oxymoron when you win, you raise an ‘L’, but we’ve talked a lot about representing the ‘L’ block here. We’ve had the same black “L” on our hat since the school opened. It has never changed, and it will not change. And we believe in the tradition of celebrating victories. And we do this by raising the ‘L’ block.
The Eagles (26-8) advance to Wednesday’s regional semifinal in West Bloomfield, where they will face No. 1-ranked West Bloomfield District title-winning Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (38-0) on Saturday.
“I feel like we’ve been working towards that all season. That was the goal, obviously, to win the first Saturday in June,” Trey Rowley said. “And then from there, we live in the moment, taking it one step at a time. So it’s just a step on the road.
Lakeland also took it one step at a time in winning Saturday’s district title.
They used a four-run third inning to jump over Western in the championship game, adding two more in the fifth and another in the sixth.
Brandon Abray had an RBI single in the third, then Matthew Hanneman added a two-run double, with the fourth run scoring on an assist. Caden Duryea’s two-run home run in the fifth made it 6-0, then Farquhar’s RBI groundout in the sixth finished the scoring.
That was a lot, considering the Eagles haven’t given up a run all day.
Farquhar went all the way in the semi-final victory, striking out 14, then the Eagles used Brandon Lengers, Caden Glennie and Jake Held in the title game, with the trio combining on a three-hit shutout .
“We threw four different guys today and we didn’t give up any points. Our shot-calling coach Aaron Bell has done a terrific job. And we do a lot of forward scouting and after seeing a lot of these guys, we have pitchers that can run the pitch to the batters’ weaknesses,” Farquhar said. “Coach Bell did a great job. He had a great game plan with that, and our guys were off.
The Eagles took a 5-0 lead in three sets against Milford in the semi-finals, then added three more runs in the fifth and sixth to wrap up victory.
Rowley was 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs in the game, while Farquhar was 3 for 4 with a triple.
“I was just happy for our children. We were locked up. You know, we won the (Valley of the Lakes Conference) four years in a row,” Farquhar said. “And we’re 82-9 and the teams that were in our district still haven’t been picked to win. Our children have a small chip on their shoulder. We’ve won two of the last four districts and four league titles in a row and I don’t think we’re done.”
Walled Lake Western (15-17) probably wasn’t picked to make the championship game either, but Paul Jones threw a full four-hitter play in the first semi as Western beat Walled Lake Center, 5-0.
Western’s five runs came in fifth, as Jack Roney had a two-run single, and Bryce Wiggins followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0, with another run scored on an error. Luke Grigg’s RBI groundout completed the scoring.
West coach Scott Peterson saw the chance to play in a championship game as an opportunity for his young team to get a taste of what he wants them to pursue.
“We have a very young team. I mean, we only had… six or seven seniors. The majority of our newbies were underclass, be they juniors, and even some sophomores. And what we hope they learned from that experience, we want that, we were happy for those guys to have the opportunity to stand up and watch that (the celebration), because we want them to see that . This is where we want to be,” Peterson said. “This (Lakeland) is a fantastic program and a fantastic team. And what it takes is for our guys to really want to do it. Not just when April rolls around, is it? But from now on. And get in the gym and run and do whatever it takes. And, and these guys can do it. And that’s what’s exciting to me.