CARLETON — It may not be a widely held view, but airport senior Brayden Moore knows there’s only one baseball player in the entire state he wants on the hill when it comes down to it.
“Jason (Himebauch) is the best pitcher in the state of Michigan and no one can tell me otherwise,” Moore said. “He’s just accurate and has everything. He’s cool, calm and mature.”
Jets coach John VanWasshenova has to agree.
Himebauch got the ball for the biggest game of the season at the airport Saturday morning in the Division 2 District semifinals against New Boston Huron — the state No. 2 and the favorite to take home this weekend’s hardware.
Himebauch had other ideas.
The Airport senior held Huron to just one run as the Jets won a 7-1 excitement, then used that momentum to drive a 6-3 win over Jefferson to win their first district championship since 2019.
Himebauch prevailed against Huron except for the finals after his pitch count rose to 104 and he was forced to leave the game. He calmed Huron’s big bats, giving up just three hits and three walks while hitting six.
“It was tough, but I have a great squad behind me,” said Himbauch. “I just wanted to throw strikes and get the curveball and change work. I worked outside a lot. …I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous, but once our boys put in a couple of runs, I felt good.”
Despite losing to Huron twice in the regular season, the Jets went into the game with confidence.
“We thought from the start that we would beat them,” said Himebauch. “We knew all week that we would beat them.”
That’s exactly the attitude VanWasshenova was looking for to come into play. Playing the Huron League champions with fear wasn’t going to work.
“The children played with a lot of passion and feeling,” he said. “It’s still airport baseball. We will not take a backseat to anyone. We’re going to play hard and give them hell no matter who it is.”
Airport led 1-0 in the first five innings before breaking through in the sixth.
Jack Mills and Shade Daniels hit back-to-back singles with outs, and then Nolan Zajac followed with a triple home run to send the bench and Jets fans into hysterics.
“That was sweet, I’m not going to lie,” Moore said. “We went crazy and the ump tried to get us off the record. We couldn’t stop.”
The airport added three more runs in seventh place to extend its lead.
“Jason threw a hell of a game,” said VanWasshenova. “He fought, worked up front and really came through on a great pitcher from Huron today. It was a big game. He’s a senior and didn’t want to end his day today and he enjoyed it.”
Gavin Moczydlowsky took the loss but batted well for Huron, allowing just one unearned run to a hit and four walks over five innings while pitching six.
Matthew Williams, Micah Smith and Moczydlowsky had hits for Huron,
“We played flat,” said Huron coach Phil Yancey. “We started, on the first pitch of the game we made a mistake at first base and it just snowballed from there.”
Huron finished the season 23-6 overall. Cole Grunwald, Jayden Morse, Shane Mitchell, Bryce Smith, Isaac Smith and Williams played their last game for Huron.
Yancey had few words for his team after the game.
“Sometimes it’s better not to say much at all,” he said. “They weren’t happy with the result. You were disappointed. … They’ve gotten all the press and publicity this year and have been No. 1 or No. 2 all year. Everyone picked them to win the state, but they’ve found it’s not that easy. I think they took it for granted.
Airport channeled his momentum by beating Huron from up front in the district finals against Jefferson.
“We haven’t calmed down,” Moore said. “We took our emotions onto the field (against Jefferson).”
Moore gave his team an early lift and hit a run with a base-loaded single in the first inning. The Jets put up four runs in the first game and took an early 4-0 lead.
“We were confident at that point,” Moore said. “We won’t win without those four runs.”
Moore finished the day with three hits and Collin Nowak led the Jets with four.
The airport held out as the bears recovered for the seventh time.
Jefferson’s Ryan Gennoe, Alec Albain and Gavin Gelso all had hits to add two runs and reduce the Jets’ lead to 6-3.
Nathan Depew came in to pitch for Airport and ended the game with a flyout and a groundout.
“I was proud of the kids. They never let up,” said Jefferson coach Tyler Bondy. “One thing I want to say about our team is they never hit the panic button and are always hanging around. Our goal is to get in other people’s bullpens and take out the pitcher and see who they have left.”
Jefferson defeated Flat Rock 9-4 in the semifinals.
“Flat Rock was a tough fight, just like we envisioned,” said Bondy. “They came at us 4-0 early on and we had to make some changes and get used to some different approaches. We were able to take the lead and close the door from there.”
Jefferson (12-17) graduates Albain, Gennoe, Gelso, Luke Ledhingham and Drew Huffman.
“We will certainly miss her,” said Bondy. “They all had nice contributions for us.”
The Rams finished the season 4-22-1.
Airport advances to the regional semifinals against Dearborn Divine Child at Livonia Clarenceville High School on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.