CHEBOYGAN — Making history is one thing.
Making history on your home field? Well, that's an entirely different thing.
For the 2013 Cheboygan varsity baseball team, its dream chance to win a first-ever district championship came on June 1.
After years of falling short in one of the tougher districts in Division 2, the Chiefs — behind the powerful senior pitching duo of Damon Proctor and Stan Swiderek — delivered the program's biggest victory by earning a 4-2 win over rival Petoskey in the final in Cheboygan.
Almost seven years later, the landmark triumph still means a whole lot to Cheboygan head coach Kevin Baller, who also guided the Chiefs to a Straits Area Conference title that same season.
"It was a great feeling," said Baller. "To win a district is something that brings nothing but pride to your community, and (Cheboygan) baseball had never won one before. We'd been close for years but had never won one before, and it was just the excitement that was there, the excitement on the kids' faces, the excitement on the coaching staff.
"I can still remember the day after that game, driving home in my truck with that trophy that was sitting in the front seat of the trunk. I'm proud of the boys and everything that they accomplished."
Getting to the final was never going to be an easy task for the Chiefs, who took on Sault Ste. Marie in the first semifinal matchup of the day.
As he had done all season, Proctor delivered a dominant performance as the Chiefs rolled to a 4-0 shutout win over the Blue Devils to earn themselves a spot in the final.
Following Petoskey's 2-0 semifinal win over Escanaba, the afternoon showdown was on.
With Swiderek getting the ball for the championship, the Chiefs believed it was going to be their day.
"We felt extremely confident," Baller said. "I had two very good starting pitchers, Damon (Proctor) being No. 1 and Stan being No. 2, and Damon pitched a great first game against the Sault. He didn't really have a lot of stress on him that game, he didn't throw a ton of pitches, so Stanley (Swiderek) started the second game, and he got a lot of experience as a junior because Damon was out for the majority of the year so he pitched a ton of innings as a junior. Coming back his senior year, he did another great job.
"Going into that game, having Stanley as a senior with all of his years pitching behind (Proctor), we felt very confident, but we also felt equally confident knowing that Damon — based on the (pitching) rule — still had three innings and nine outs, and he could pitch if Stanley got himself in trouble."
The Chiefs showed early on they meant business, striking first with an RBI single from Proctor to make it 1-0. Nate Stempky made it a 2-0 Cheboygan edge, scoring on a Petoskey error.
While the Northmen sliced the lead to 2-1 in the top of the fifth, Cheboygan immediately bounced back in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of vital insurance runs courtesy of an RBI single from Zach Schley and later a sacrifice fly from Jake Juillet, another one of the key seniors for the Chiefs.
With Swiderek doing his part by allowing one run over 4 1/3 solid innings, the Chiefs again turned to Proctor to deliver his magic in relief.
Proctor finished off the Northmen in style, striking out the side in the top of the seventh to help the Chiefs earn the title they had craved for so, so long.
The celebration was on.
"It was one of my favorite memories of high school," said Proctor, recalling the moment years later. "It's pretty neat to be a part of the history. We were all confident. It was the best team we had and our best shot to win it. We just had a lot of confidence and knew if we played our game we had a chance.
"It was cool that it was the first time it was done, but we always believed that we could do it that year with the team we had."
Together, Proctor and Swiderek combined to strike out eight Northmen batters and allowed only four hits.
"That senior class was extremely important," Baller said. "That group of boys played so much baseball growing up, but that group of boys had something you hope that a lot of teams have. No. 1, they were a great group of kids. They got along extremely well, they had a ton of baseball knowledge, and they were very athletic. They enjoyed to play the game. I think that was the difference in us winning. They got along so well and had great knowledge of the game."
On the following weekend, Cheboygan made its first-ever regional final by claiming a 4-0 shutout win over Gladwin in the semifinal. However, Cheboygan's thrilling postseason run came to a close after a 3-1 loss to Remus Chippewa Hills in the final.
As he looks back on it in 2020, Baller will always remember the 2013 Chiefs as one of the more special teams he's ever coached.
And that moment on the first day of June will never be forgotten.
"They were a great group of kids who enjoyed playing the game," Baller said. "Just the way they played, I just remembered how much fun it was having the opportunity to coach that group of kids just because they played hard, they played the right way, and in high school sports — especially baseball — having two dominant pitchers like we did with Damon and Stan, they were a big reason for our success. When either of those two guys was on the mound, the majority of the time we felt we were going to walk away with a win.
"It was just really exciting."