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Bear Lake Celebrates Second Straight Baseball District Title

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BEAR LAKE - Six years ago, Bear Lake didn’t even have a baseball program.

Now, the school has won back-to-back district championships.

Bear Lake defeated Manistee Catholic Central 7-1 and Brethren 16-0 in the district tournament to bring home the championship for the second straight year.


The Lakers did not have a baseball team from 2008 to 2017 but restarted the program in 2018. A small community in Manistee County, Bear Lake has rallied around the team since the beginning.

“They’re a great, great community,” said head coach John Prokes. “They’ll support you 100 percent no matter what the record is and to give them something to cheer for and to bring a competitive team out here, that’s even more special for me. You love the support whether you win or lose, but to give them something that they can be proud of in the form of a championship here is special to a coach and to the players.”

Prokes has been the head coach ever since the program restarted. He said the program’s quick success is a testament to the kids he coaches.

“It’s just because of the kids and the athletes we have here and the support of the community. You have the ingredients right there from the start of a program that can build into something. So we had that at the very beginning, that interest and enthusiasm, and that’s carried over the last six years. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it.”


This year’s Bear Lake team has a record of 20-6-1 after Saturday’s tournament and has been marked by players stepping up to fill in the gaps left by a talented senior class from last season.

“It’s meant so much to me,” said senior Travis Hughey. “Last year, being on the bench in the district game and then this year being able to play in it and have a massive role in that, it’s just super special. I feel like it’s, not that the last one wasn’t our district championship, but [this one] was more for the seniors this year, it was our district championship.”

“It feels good to have this district win because I didn’t get to play my last football year due to an injury,” added senior Gabriel Aguilar. “So I feel accomplished that I got something done [for Bear Lake].”

The players hope the back-to-back district championships set a standard for the program going forward.


“It’s awesome just to see where the growth of the program has gone,” said Hughey. “Next year that bar is set; district champions, that’s where we want to be.”

Bear Lake will face Muskegon Catholic Central in the regional semifinals on Wednesday, a program with a rich baseball tradition. But the Lakers showed last season that they aren’t afraid to compete with anybody.

Bear Lake faced No. 1 Beal City in the 2022 regional semis and lost 5-0. Beal City went on to make a run all the way to the state championship game before it lost 4-3 to Riverview Gabriel Richard. Other than the state championship game, the game against Bear Lake was the only postseason game in which the Aggies did not score at least 10 runs.

“That’s our whole theme is play with no fear and don’t be outplayed,” said Prokes. “Just play your best game. Get rid of that intimidation factor. Nobody is any different than you are. You’re great kids, you’re great athletes, so go out there and play your best game and see what happens and you’ll be surprised sometimes.”


“It doesn’t matter [who we play],” said Aguilar. “We’re going to go in there confident and we’re going to go in there ready to win.”

Whatever happens next, back-to-back district championships is an impressive achievement for a program as young as Bear Lake.

“We’ve made huge strides from where we were at six years ago,” he said. “Players will tell you, we struggled to throw the ball and play catch in the gym for a minute consistently without dropping it or mis-throwing the ball. We had guys that had never played baseball before wanting to play to be part of a program. So you go through those growth spurts but then you inspire, motivate and mentor younger kids and now they’re playing at the younger levels. So it’s like when you have some success and people see that, they want to be a part of that.”

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