TRAVERSE CITY — Memories of the Titans 2016 baseball season seem closer than ever before.
For underclassmen those moments are legendary stories, but for the senior class those memories are the fuel that sparked this playoff run.
Traverse City West took down Grand Blanc handily in the Division 1 regional semifinal at TC Central, using a big fourth inning to secure a 9-3 victory.
The win marks the first trip to the regional title game since the 2016 season when the team went 41-3, but that doesn't mean they are unprepared.
"For some of these guys that are seniors, it is still fresh in their mind that they were on a team that made a significant run to the state semis," Titans head coach Matt Bocian said. "I think they want to get back there.
"When they come together as a collective group they can do something special. They are believing in that and playing good baseball right now, bottom line."
TC West took a 2-0 lead after a two-RBI single by Luke LaCross in the second inning but something special really began to brew in the fourth inning when he led off with a double.
Braden Brown reached first on a dropped catch by the Bobcats center fielder and Sam DeKuiper cleared the bases with a double in the next at-bat.
DeKuiper stole third on a wild pitch and found his way home on a fielder's choice leaving the Titans with one out in the inning. Freshman Sam Reynolds and sophomore Luke Robertson led the one-out rally with back-to-back singles before Cam Cobb reached on a bunt and loaded the bases.
"It's confidence and momentum," Bocian said when asked how the Titans got rolling. "They really feed off of each other. It only takes one guy to get a base hit and the momentum is contagious."
The next batter was walked and forced in the fourth run of the inning, something Grand Blanc head coach Kevin Hubbs said is very uncharacteristic.
"Today our pitchers were struggling a bit to hit their spots," he said. "We walked way too many hitters, which is not typical of those guys. Unfortunately we had a rough inning."
The onslaught didn't stop there. Another error allowed the fifth man of the inning to score, making it 7-0 before the Bobcats were able to return blows.
"When you get into regionals, it is going to be a seven-round fight," Hubbs said. "You are going to take some punches — maybe a hit or an error — but you have to move on to the next pitch."
Grand Blanc led off the bottom of the inning with a double of their own, followed by a pair of singles and two runs before DeKuiper was able to shut them down.
DeKuiper tossed 4.1 innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs before being replaced by junior Andy Soma.
Soma had a stellar outing in relief, allowing only one hit while striking out three to close out the game.
The Bobcats threatened in the fifth and the sixth innings, but the Titans defense locked down and propelled them to the regional final.
"Anybody can come back in playoff baseball," Titan senior River Moore said. "You have to keep your foot on the gas and you can never give up."
West tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh before sending the Bobcats packing.
Moore had two RBI on two hits for TC West. DeKuiper had two hits, two RBI and two runs from the plate. Reynolds led the offense with three hits, a run and a RBI and Jack Beltinck knocked in a run.
The Titans will face off with Flushing on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Hudsonville high school. The winner will take home the Division 1 regional crown and move onto the super regional on Saturday afternoon.