Preview: Writing Championship Chapters
Preview: Writing Championship Chapters
Baseball
Posted Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Great stories abound among this weekend’s 16 semifinalists vying for MHSAA baseball championships.

Ten teams are seeking their first baseball titles. Six hope to play in a Final for the first time. Two entered the postseason with sub-.500 records. And a small-school power that voluntarily jumped up this season to take on our largest opponents has made it to the cusp of another championship.

See below for a schedule of this weekend’s games, plus glances at all 16 teams that will take the field beginning Thursday.

Semifinals – Thursday
Division 1
Northville vs. Grand Haven, 9 a.m.
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett vs. Saline, 11:30 a.m.

Division 2
Stevensville Lakeshore vs. Chelsea, 2:30 p.m.
Dearborn Divine Child vs. Bay City John Glenn, 5 p.m.

Semifinals – Friday
Division 3
Madison Heights Bishop Foley vs. Caro, 9 a.m.
Traverse City St. Francis vs. Schoolcraft, 11:30 a.m.

Division 4
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Portland St. Patrick, 2:30 p.m.
Hudson vs. Gaylord St. Mary, 5 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1: 9 a.m.
Division 2: 11:30 a.m.
Division 3: 2:30 p.m.
Division 4: 5 p.m.

Tickets cost $8 per round and include admission to softball games those days also at MSU’s Old College Field. Radio broadcasts of all games can be heard online at MHSAAnetwork.com. All games will be streamed live online at MHSAA.TV and viewable on subscription basis. Click to order tickets in advance and for a parking map

All statistics below are through Regionals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)

Division 1

GRAND HAVEN
Record/rank: 24-15, unranked
Coach: Michael Hansen, seventh season (record N/A)
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Jake Hansen, sr. SS (.397, 29 R, 12 2B, 25 RBI); Sean Casey, sr. P/IB (.325, 19 RBI, 8-1 pitching, 1.08 ERA, 53 K in 78 IP); Kyle Hoover, soph. OF (.371, 23 RBI); Max Schweikert, sr. P/C (7-1, 2.32 ERA, 20 K in 54 1/3 IP).
Outlook: Grand Haven has advanced to its first Quarterfinal and now Semifinal in program history, becoming one of the stories of the tournament and extending the run by beating No. 12 Saginaw Heritage on Tuesday. The Buccaneers are anchored by seven senior starters. Six pitchers have at least one win and four at least one save, with Schweikert closing two games in addition to his seven wins. Michael Hansen pitched for five seasons in the Detroit Tigers minor league system and then professionally in Mexico as well.

GROSSE POINTE WOODS UNIVERSITY LIGGETT
Record/rank: 33-4, No. 2
Coach: Dan Cimini, 14th season (390-83)
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2016 in Division 3), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: William Morrison, jr. CF (.400, 55 R, 22 RBI, 40 SB); Connor McCarron, sr. SS (.410, 36 R, 18 2B, 48 RBI, 14 SB); Noah Miller, jr. 2B (.441, 11 2B, 34 R, 5 HR, 37 RBI); Anthony George, jr. P/OF (.413, 33 R, 21 SB, 6-0 pitching, 1.18 ERA, 60 K in 53 IP).
Outlook: Liggett has won three straight MHSAA titles and four over the last five seasons in either Division 3 or Division 4. The Knights opted up to Division 1 this season and clearly have been up to the task; they’ve eliminated No. 9 Sterling Heights Stevenson and No. 13 Grosse Pointe North during this run, and after losing to Stevenson in the regular-season finale. McCarron and Morrison made the all-state first team last season, and George and Miller made the second. George is expected to start the Semifinal, but sophomore Alec Azar (8-2, 1.62 ERA, 71 K) provides another strong arm either to help in that game or Saturday’s championship decider.

NORTHVILLE
Record/rank: 29-10, unranked
Coach: John Kostrzewa, 13th season (349-87)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Aram Shahrigian, sr. 1B; Nate Wixon, sr. 3B; Ben Schmidt, jr. P. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Northville is another of the great stories from this tournament, advancing to its first Semifinal since 1972. The Wildcats entered the postseason unranked but as a league champion and with splits with No. 1 Saline, No. 10 Brighton and a win over Division 2 No. 2 Detroit Country Day. They’ve scored 44 runs over five tournament games and reached double digits eight more times during the regular season.

SALINE
Record/rank: 37-3, No. 1
Coach: Scott Theisen, 25th season (637-240-8)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference Red.
Championship history: Five runner-up finishes (most recent 2016).
Players to watch: Jake Finkbeiner, sr. SS (.414, 37 R, 28 RBI); Sean O’Keefe, sr. C/P (.421, 13 2B, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 7-0 pitching, 0.92 ERA, 38 K in 38 IP); Cole Daniels, jr. OF/P (.386, 23 R, 42 RBI, 7-0 pitching, 0.28 ERA, 64 K in 50 2/3 IP); Ryan Foley, sr. OF (.429, 38 R, 12 2B, 16 SB).
Outlook: Saline finished runner-up last season for the fourth time in nine seasons and looks to have all the pieces to get over the title hump. In addition to Daniels and O’Keefe, juniors Danny Weidmayer (7-1, 1.38 ERA) and Paul Kiyabu (6-0, 0.74 ERA) have shined on the mound; Weidmayer is expected to start the Semifinal. Five others not mentioned above also hit at least .290, led by senior second baseman Kellan Huang (.393). The only losses this season came to Northville, Lake Orion and No. 5 Birmingham Brother Rice.

Division 2

BAY CITY JOHN GLENN
Record/rank: 34-8, No. 14
Coach: Jeff Hartt, 33rd season (749-360)
League finish: Does not play in a conference for baseball.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2012.
Players to watch: John Hardy, jr. 1B (.330, 10 2B, 37 RBI); Alex Dingee, sr. P/OF (9-2, 1.56 ERA, .300 hitting, 28 R); Brad Mularz, sr. P/OF (10-2, 2.32 ERA, 19 RBI hitting); Cameron Fowler, sr. OF (.400, 36 R, 24 RBI, 14 SB).
Outlook: John Glenn has won 10 of its last 11 to earn its second trip to the Semifinals. Hardy made the all-state second team last season as a sophomore, but otherwise this is a senior-drive club. Fowler is the leading hitter, followed by two more seniors Corey Langenburg (.352) and Matt Fisher (.346). Senior Conner Esch is next after Hardy at .321 and also is on a top pitcher with Fowler behind the senior aces Dingee and Mularz and freshman Blake Waibel (5-2, 1.86 ERA).  

CHELSEA
Record/rank: 31-9, No. 3
Coach: Adam Taylor, sixth season (88-89-2)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference White.
Championship history: Class B champion 1991.
Players to watch: Cal Barrett, sr. C (.417, 12 2B, 34 R, 37 RBI, 13 SB); Hunter Neff, soph. OF (.433, 44 R, 28 RBI); Andrew Anstead, sr. P (8-2, 2.31 ERA, 52 K in 66 2/3 IP, .314 hitting, 27 RBI); Grant Barrett, jr. 3B/P (6-1 1.99 ERA, 47 K in 52 2/3 IP, .342 hitting, 28 RBI).
Outlook: Chelsea has upped its win total each of the last four seasons in getting back to the Semifinals for the first time since 2006. Cal Barrett was an all-state second team selection last season and remains one of a solid group of hitters; in addition to those listed above, senior first baseman Al Vasquez (.375, 10 2B, 29 RBI) and junior outfielder Thomas Steele (.368, 11 2B, 30 R, 16 SB, 27 RBI) are most dangerous at the plate. The Bulldogs closed the regular season with a tough run against top Division 1 teams Brighton, Saline and Howell, but have beaten their five playoff opponents by a combined score of 29-10.

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Record/rank: 23-19, unranked
Coach: Dan Deegan, first season (23-19)
League finish: Fourth in Detroit Catholic League Central.
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2010).
Players to watch: Zac Krauss, sr. SS (.414, 43 R); Kyle Gurney, soph. 1B/C (.366, 29 R, 30 RBI); Scott Combs, sr. C/1B (.362, 20 RBI); Nick Gurney, sr. OF/P (.327, 27 R, 28 RBI, 6-2 pitching, 3.70 ERA, 33 K in 48 2/3 IP).
Outlook: After ending in Quarterfinals the last two seasons, Divine Child is back in the Semifinals for the first time since 2012 and after entering the postseason 18-19. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the Falcons played in a Catholic League Central with a number of Division 1 opponents including reigning champion Warren DeLaSalle and No. 5 Birmingham Brother Rice. Senior Daniel Bullard made the all-state team last season as a pitcher and is second on the team in innings pitched to senior Dillon Champagne (5-4, 3.16 ERA)

STEVENSVILLE LAKESHORE
Record/rank: 34-6, No. 7
Coach: Mark Nate, 12th season (307-134-1)
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West
Championship history: Class B champion 1990.
Players to watch: Tyler Mojsiejenko, sr. 1B/P (.460, 37 R, 16 2B, 47 RBI, 30 SB, 2-1 pitching, 2.40 ERA); Trey Thibeault, jr. SS (.385, 46 R, 15 2B, 19 SB); Max Gaishin, sr. P/OF (.455, 29 R, 19 SB, 41 RBI, 13-1 pitching, 1.77 ERA, 72 K in 63 IP); Connor Brawley, jr. P/OF (.424, 33 R, 12 2B, 17 SB, 8-1 pitching, 1.09 ERA, 78 K in 77 IP).
Outlook: Lakeshore will play in its first Semifinal since 2010 and is a win away from tying its high under Nate, 35 during another Semifinal season in 2008. The Lancers this time emerged from a Regional that included No. 11 Vicksburg and No. 13 Edwardsburg. Three more regulars hit over .300 as the team as a whole hits .366 – senior Ryan Remus (.369), freshman Oli Carmody (.345) and junior Sean Branch (.300), while junior Joel Brawley is another successful thrower entering this week 8-2 with a 2.00 ERA.

Division 3

CARO
Record/rank: 15-21, unranked
Coach: Victor Gomez, first season (15-14)
League finish: Tied for sixth in Tri-Valley Conference East.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Steven Strachen III, jr. 1B/P (.430, 26 R, 14 2B, 12 SB, 3-2 pitching, 2.72 ERA, 38 K in 54 IP); Deven Hodder, sr. OF/P (4-8, 3.90 ERA, 50 K in 61 IP); Carson Moen, jr. 3B/OF/P (.290, 25 R, 2-2 pitching, 1.58 ERA); Kyle Fetting, sr. C/1B/OF (.296, 29 RBI).
Outlook: Caro is another fascinating story this month, winning its first Regional title with Gomez taking over the team after the season had started and leading it to a 15-14 record. The Tigers have shut out three of their five postseason opponents and total outscored the five by a combined 38-7. Among other impressive wins was a 2-1 victory over Division 2 No. 6 Essexville Garber.

MADISON HEIGHTS BISHOP FOLEY
Record/rank: 23-12-1, No. 7
Coach: Greg Fettes, second season (50-20-1)
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic League AA.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Payton Schuster, sr. OF; Justin Campbell, sr. P; Ethan Hoffman, jr. P. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Bishop Foley is back at the Semifinals for the first time since that most recent title run. The Ventures came out of the Catholic League AA but also got some nice preparation sweeping Dearborn Divine Child (now in the Division 2 Semifinals) and beating reigning Division 1 champion Warren DeLaSalle – both play in the Catholic League Central. Bishop Foley has shut out four of five postseason opponents, outscoring them by a total of 67-1.

SCHOOLCRAFT
Record/rank: 25-10, No. 5
Coach: Larry Phelps, fifth season (130-35)
League finish: Tied for first in Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Ricky Clark, sr. P/IF (.390, 37 R, 32 RBI, 25 SB, 5-2 pitching, 0.72 ERA, 58 K in 48 1/3 IP); Caleb Anspaugh, sr. C/IF (.423, 20 R, 20 RBI, 14 SB); Blake Bales, sr. P/IF (.442, 24 R, 17 2B, 34 RBI, 6-1 pitching, 0.67 ERA, 75 K in 41 2/3 IP); Nolan Anspaugh, sr. OF (.398, 49 R, 45 SB).
Outlook: After also making the Quarterfinals last season, Schoolcraft broke through this week to earn its first Semifinal berth. The Eagles had to go through No. 4 Homer and No. 13 Comstock among others to get to this point for the first time, but have won 11 of their last 14. Clark and Caleb Anspaugh both were all-staters last season, and they have plenty of help with seven regulars hitting above .300 including senior Collin Tone (.416). Four pitchers have at least four wins, with senior Darren Kehoe tying for the team lead entering the week with six.

TRAVERSE CITY ST. FRANCIS
Record/rank: 37-3, No. 1
Coach: Tom Passinault, fourth season (107-30)
League finish: First in Lake Michigan Conference
Championship history: Class D champion 1990.
Players to watch: Conner Sweet, sr. 3B (.404, 38 R, 17 SB); Joey Muzljakovic, sr. IB/P (.443, 37 R, 10 2B, 33 RBI, 17 SB, 10-0 pitching, 0.40 ERA, 97 K in 53 IP); Keaton Peck, soph. SS/P (.406, 28 R, 26 RBI; 5-1 pitching, 1.91 ERA, 33 K in 36 2/3 IP);
Casey Peterson, jr. P (8-1 pitching, 0.15 ERA, 76 K in 47 1/3 IP).
Outlook: The Gladiators are back at the Semifinals for the first time since 1992 and have increased their win total in each of the last five seasons. They are 12 wins better than a year ago after returning the entire starting lineup this spring, plus adding back Muzljakovic (who missed 2016 with an injury). St. Francis has shut out all five of its postseason opponents, including No. 9 Grand Rapids West Catholic in the Quarterfinal. The only losses came to Division 4 No. 2 Portland St. Patrick, Division 1 No. 16 Brownstown Woodhaven and Division 1 Muskegon Mona Shores.

Division 4

 
GAYLORD ST. MARY
Record/rank: 29-7, No. 10
Coach: Matt Nowicki, 13th season (215-160) 
League finish: First in Ski Valley Conference.
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 1989).
Players to watch: Billy Koenig, sr. OF (.404, 31 R, 33 RBI); Drew Long, jr. C/P/IF (.412, 33 R, 10 2B, 14 SB, 13-1 pitching, 0.37 ERA, 95 K in 75 2/3 IP); Nick Torsky, sr. P/IF (.389, 45 R, 26 SB, 11-2 pitching, 1.74 ERA, 92 K in 68 1/3 IP); Josh Nowicki, sr. 3B (.402, 39 R, 32 RBI, 16 SB).
Outlook: In their first Semifinal run last season in nearly two decades, the Snowbirds just missed making the championship game. They’re loaded and ready to take the next step, with Torsky a returning all-stater and Long another nearly untouchable pitcher this spring. As a team, St. Mary is hitting .338 – freshman second baseman Drew Koenig adds another .368 to the starting mix – and had been caught stealing only 10 times in 108 tries entering the week. The Snowbirds have scored 45 runs over five tournament games, with a high of 13 in a three-run win over No. 9 Maple City Glen Lake in the Regional Final.

HUDSON
Record/rank: 26-16, unranked
Coach: Jeremy Beal, 13th season (242-245)
League finish: Tied for sixth in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Anthony Wohlgemuth, sr. C/P; Jesse Heistan, soph. P; Ty Perin, fr. OF. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: It’s been quite a rise for the Tigers, who tied for last in the LCAA only a season ago but bring a 10-1 run into this weekend after downing No. 8 St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic in the Quarterfinal. Wohlgemuth and pitcher Josh Heistan are the only seniors; there are 14 underclassmen on the roster. The 25 wins are Hudson’s most since going 30-10 in 2011 and more than double last spring’s total.

PORTLAND ST. PATRICK
Record/rank: 32-3-1, No. 2
Coach: Bryan Scheurer, 13th season (312-105-1)
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2016).
Players to watch: Brendan Schrauben, sr. C; Brandon Scheurer, soph. SS; Dan Mackowiak, jr. 2B; Noah Goodman, sr. P/1B. (Statistics not submitted).
Outlook: After finishing one win shy of a first MHSAA championship last spring, St. Patrick enters this weekend as the highest-ranked team remaining. Although the Shamrocks did lose to semifinalist Gaylord St. Mary during the regular season, they also beat Division 3 favorite Traverse City St. Francis and shut out No. 3 Muskegon Catholic Central in the Quarterfinal.

UNIONVILLE-SEBEWAING
Record/rank: 30-7-1, No. 6
Coach: Tyler Bader, fifth season (91-51-3)
League finish: Tied for first in Greater Thumb Conference West.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Paul Miklovic, sr. OF (.364, 32 R, 14 SB); Devin Riskey, jr. P (11-1, 1.93 ERA, 78 K in 72 2/3 IP); Cody Finkbeiner, sr. P/1B (.396, 30 R, 40 RBI); Brendan Prime, sr. P/3B/CF (.313, 23 RBI, 9-2 pitching, 1.99 ERA, 66 K in 59 2/3 IP).
Outlook: USA fell to eventual champion Sterling Heights Parkway Christian in last year’s Quarterfinal, but came back to take the next step for the first time in part by shutting out Parkway in the Regional Final. Juniors Cooper Kauffold (.389, 28 RBI), Myles Geiger (.308, 28 R, 27 RBI) and Hunter Bohn (.290, 29 R, 14 SB) help fill out the lineup. And with the top two pitchers juniors as well, this could turn into a two-season history-making march.

PHOTO: Caro's Steven Strachan prepares to swing during a game against Bad Axe last month. (Photo by Varsity Monthly.)


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