EAST JORDAN — The destination is the same as the last four years — East Lansing.
The journey to get there, quite different.
Gaylord St. Mary ran over rival Johannesburg-Lewiston 15-6 and beat Norway 14-9 in Saturday's Division 4 Super Regional at East Jordan, clinching the Snowbirds' fourth straight visit to Michigan State University's campus for the baseball state semifinals.
St. Mary's win over Joburg came with a price.
Joseph Moeggenberg ran over Joburg catcher Dan Runyan in a fifth-inning collision at the plate with the Cardinals leading 5-4.
Moeggenberg, the Snowbirds starting second baseman and No. 2 pitcher, was ejected and the run didn't count, even though Runyan had dropped the ball before the collision. Moeggenberg said he didn't know that Runyan didn't have the ball and that he should have slid into home instead of trying to knock the ball free.
"He knows he has to slide," Snowbirds head coach Matt Nowicki said. "Emotion got the best of him. He's a gritty kid."
Moeggenberg's ejection means he wasn't allowed to play against Norway and also can't participate in Friday's 2:30 p.m. semifinal against Petersburg-Summerfield (22-1).
Runyan left the game and didn't return, bleeding from the nose in the Cardinal dugout, but refusing to leave his teammates. Matt Ross played catcher for the first time this season.
Cardinals starter Tanner Shimel also hit the pitch limit and Sheldon Huff took the mound.
Two batters later, Brady Hunter blasted a three-run home run to center field to put St. Mary back into a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"We were pretty emotionally drained after that," Joburg head coach Cody Proctor said. "Or it got us too amped. We couldn't keep it together. We're a tight group and sometimes it's tough to keep it in the right spot."
Moeggenberg said he apologized to members of the J-L team and told them he should have slid.
St. Mary would go on to score four in the fifth inning and six in the sixth to blow the game open.
Hunter ended up 3-for-5 with a half dozen RBIs, three steals and three runs scored. Alex Pudvan contributed two hits and two runs, Steven Koscielniak drove in two runs and Andrew Zielinski and Moeggenberg each had an RBI.
Tommy Runyan had put Joburg up 5-4 with a grand slam to left centerfield after the Snowbirds had staked themselves a 4-0 advantage. Shimel and Huff also drove in J-L runs and Austin Carroll had a double.
Joburg and St. Mary split earlier this season, with the Cardinals winning 1-0 in a game that featured the same pitching matchup of Shimel versus Drew Koenig.
"We knew we had to step up our game if we wanted to take down Tanner, because he's a great pitcher," Koenig said.
Norway started the day off by beating Inland Lakes 6-0 to earn a regional title and Super Regional berth.
Without Moeggenberg to pitch the second game, the Snowbirds turned to the tandem of Hunter and Zielinski against Norway (22-5-1).
Hunter tossed the first 2.2 innings and Zielinski the final 4.1 frames, allowing five earned runs of the Knights' nine to cross the plate.
The Snowbirds encountered one major hiccup in Norway's three-run third inning that included all four errors the Snowbirds would commit in the game.
Nowicki and Hunter both said it was the worst single inning the team played this season.
"Yeech," Nowicki said. "I don't know how to spell that. It was ugly.
"If it was a 0-0 game, maybe we don't come back from that. But we had a lead, and played past it."
The Snowbirds led 10-1 going into the bottom of the third.
Hunter added three more hits, five steals and three runs, Zielinski drove in two runs with a pair of hits, Koenig had three hits, Logan Murrell batted in two and Alex Pudvan three as the Snowbird offense kept up its pace of scoring double-digit runs in every postseason contest thus far.
"We had Z (Zielinski) to back me up, so it's all good," Hunter said of his surprise start, where he allowed four hits and struck out four. "We've been hitting the ball really well. Once our offense gets going, we're scary."
Koenig is set to start against Summerfield, and Moeggenberg would start Saturday's state final if the Snowbirds win Friday.