Baseball Finals: Here Comes the Hit Parade

June 14, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

More than half of the teams in this weekend's MHSAA Baseball Finals field will play their first Semifinals ever Friday at Battle Creek's Bailey Park – including three teams each in Divisions 1 and 2. 

But will one also win its first championship? That's a tougher question to answer, especially with reigning Division 3 champ Madison Heights Bishop Foley and Division 4 winner Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett also back and looking like favorites again.

Below is this weekend's schedule, followed by a look at each of the 16 teams that will be playing. Tickets cost $7 per round or $15 for an all-tournament ticket that includes admission to softball games. All Finals also will be streamed live online at and

Semifinals - Friday

Division 1 
Warren DeLaSalle vs. Howell - Morrison Field, Noon
Hudsonville vs. Saline - Nichols Field, 1 p.m.

Division 2 
St. Joseph vs. Bay City John Glenn - C.O. Brown Stadium, 2 p.m.
Dearborn Divine Child vs. Grand Rapids Christian - Morrison Field, 3 p.m.

Division 3 
Saginaw Nouvel vs. Madison Heights Bishop Foley - Nichols Field, 4 p.m.
Mancelona vs. Lansing Catholic - C.O. Brown Stadium, 5 p.m.

Division 4
GPW University Liggett vs. Rudyard - Nichols Field, 10 a.m.
Muskegon Catholic Central vs. Decatur - C.O. Brown Stadium, 11 a.m.

Finals - Saturday
Division 4 - 9:30 a.m.
Division 1 - 12:30 p.m.
Division 2 - 3:30 p.m.
Division 3 - 6:30 p.m.

Statistics below are through teams' Regional tournaments. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)

Division 1

Record/rank: 30-10, unranked
Coaches: Jason Ladd and Mike Weatherly (first seasons)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: RF sr. Brandon Risacher (.440, 16 2B, 24 SB), P sr. Josh Vyletel (14-2, 1.92 ERA), CF sr. Greg Cauley (.396, 19 RBI).
Outlook: The Highlanders are making their first trip to the MHSAA Semifinals, but have seen plenty of strong competition on the way with wins over No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, No. 3 Northville and formerly ranked Holt. Every starter but one is hitting at least .325.

Record/rank: 31-5, No. 6
Coach: Dave Van Noord, 18th season (403-177)
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Red
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: 2B sr. Brandon Cable (.461, 29 RBI, 10 SB), P sr. Blake Hibbitts (9-0, 1.33 ERA, 63 K in 52.7 IP), 1B sr. Hunter Prince (.387, 13 2B, 28 RBI).
Outlook: Hudsonville also is making its first trip to the Semifinals, and has the luxury of multiple aces to throw at the competition this weekend. The 6-foot-6 Hibbitts has emerged this fall, and pairs with returning all-stater Tyler Baar (8-2, 2.41 ERA) for an outstanding one-two punch.

Record/rank: 30-10, No. 9
Coach: Scott Theisen, 20th season (510-213)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference Red
Championship history: Four Division 1 runner-up finishes (most recently 2010)
Players to watch: 1B/P sr. Justin Goike (.389, 39 RBI, 8-1, 1.21 ERA), SS sr. Austin Hauck (.345, 10 2B, 39 RBI), CF jr. Gage Hammond (.381, 9 3B, 19 SB).
Outlook: Saline is hoping to finish off its first title run after ending as runner-up in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Six more regulars hit at least .300, including freshman designated hitter Trent Theisen (.386). Senior Brent Vaccaro and sophomore Michael Hendrickson both also had won six games on the mound entering this week, both with sub-2.00 ERAs for the season.

Record/rank: 19-22-1, unranked
Coach: Matt Cook, second season (38-41-1)
League finish: Fifth in Detroit Catholic High School League Central
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recently 2009)
Players to watch: P/1B/3B sr. Kevin Carroll (.333, 25 RBI, 6-2, 2.00 ERA), 1B jr. Cole Clifton (.389, 12 2B, 39 RBI), CF sr. Reed Carnagie (.300, 31 RBI).
Outlook: DeLaSalle likely will be considered the surprise of this weekend’s field, but consider a few things. The Pilots have a championship history, with two of their three titles coming over the last 12 seasons. And they play in the Detroit Catholic League, which featured top-ranked Brother Rice and annually is one of the most competitive in the state.  

Division 2

Record/rank: 34-7, No. 3
Coach: Jeff Hartt, 28th season (601-316)
League finish: John Glenn does not play in a league.
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: IF sr. Chase Krager, P jr. Zach Olszewski. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Bay City John Glenn got Coach Hartt his 600th win in the Regional final, and now has made it to the Semifinals for the first time. Krager and Olszewski were all-state second-team picks last season and are two of five seniors on the team. All of them start.

22-15, unranked
Coach: Tony DeMare, 13th season (357-138)
League finish: Tied for second in Detroit Catholic High School League Central
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recently 2010)
Players to watch: SS sr. Randy Kuzdak (.348, 23 RBI), 2B sr. Justin Williams (.369, 24 RBI), 1B jr. Zack Schmidtke (.342, 21 RBI, 5-5, 2.55 ERA).
Outlook: Divine Child has won four of the last eight Division 2 championships, and like Warren DeLaSalle above plays a tough brand of competition – seven of those losses came against foes that either were ranked or made the Semifinals as well. Senior Justin Chandler (6-3, 2.25 ERA) likely will draw Friday’s start and is one of four pitchers with at least four wins.

Record/rank: 34-5, No. 2
Coach: Brent Gates, fifth season (133-44)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent White
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up in 2011 and 2005.
Players to watch: IF/P sr. Kurt Hoekstra (.492, 6 3B, 41 RBI), P sr. David VanVliet (7-0, 0.95 ERA, .328), IF sr. Taylor Pruis (.369, 9 2B, 33 RBI, 26 SB).
Outlook: All but one starter from last season’s MHSAA Final line-up is back for Grand Rapids Christian, and eight starters are hitting .325 or better. Depth also is on the Eagles' side – nine pitchers have won games this season and combined for a 2.13 ERA, and Hoekstra is 3-0 with four saves.

Record/rank: 32-9, No. 10
Coach: Eric Danapilis, fourth season (110-46)
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: OF sr. Jacob Fratzke (.330, 46 R, 31 RBI), P soph. Charles Fleenor (7-0, 0.95 ERA, .326), 3B soph. Anthony Montoya (.458, 17 2B, 51 RBI).
Outlook: This is St. Joseph’s second trip to the Semifinals, and first since 1981. Six seniors start for the Bears, with Fratzke and shortstop Nick Lawrence both earning all-state first-team selections last season. St. Joseph edged No. 1 Richland Gull Lake 6-5 in the Regional semifinal on the way to Battle Creek.

Division 3

Record/rank: 30-6, unranked
Coach: Mike Scott, fourth season (73-58-3)
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Championship history: Class C champion 1996.
Players to watch: C/P sr. Mike DeClarke (.368, 22 RBI, 6-0, 1.70 ERA), CF jr. Adam Babcock (.449, 39 R, 31 SB), P sr. Dillon Rush (10-1, 0.52 ERA, .406, 33 RBI).
Outlook: Scott has built the Cougars back up from a nine-win season in 2009 to its third District title under him and first trip to the Semifinals since 1997. Lansing Catholic opened this season with a sweep over Semifinalist Saginaw Nouvel Catholic and beat No. 7 Parchment in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. First baseman Jimmy Maher rounds out a small but talented senior class.

Record/rank: 36-3, No. 1
Coach: Buster Sunde, fourth season (132-23)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League AA
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2011, Class B runner-up 1990.
Players to watch: C sr. Brett Sunde, 3B jr. Billy Malak. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Graduating four all-staters after last season hasn’t slowed the Ventures, whose losses were to Division 1 Lake Orion and Detroit Catholic Central, and Allen Park Cabrini. Brett Sunde has signed with Western Michigan University, but also was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 35th round of last week’s Major League draft.

Record/rank: 29-5, No. 10
Coach: Jim VanWagoner, ninth season (177-85)
League finish: First in Ski Valley Conference
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: P/IF sr. Craig Conway (.460, 16 2B, 32 RBI, 14-1, 1.79 ERA, 106 K in 85 IP), CF jr. Wyatt Derrer (.414, 28 RBI, 45 SB, 34 R), C fr. Cole VanWagoner (.412, 25 R, 20 RBI).
Outlook: Mancelona is headed to the Semifinals for the second year in a row and the second time ever, but has been building toward this with four straight District and six straight league championships. The Ironmen look especially dangerous if they win Friday, with freshman Brandon Dingman (9-1, 2.22) also strong on the hill this season.

Record/rank: 29-9, unranked
Coach: Dave Horny, sixth season
League finish: Nouvel does not play in a league.
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recently 2005), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: P sr. Joe Buchalski (.385, 12 2B, 26 RBI, 8-2, 0.54 ERA, 104 K in 52 IP), 1B sr. Josh Buchalski (.367, 10 SB, 6-0, 1.04 ERA, 76 K in 54 IP), LF sr. Mike Albosta (.367, 11 SB, 27 R).
Outlook: Nouvel might be unranked, but owns wins against Division 1 No. 4 Bay City Western and Division 2 No. 3 Bay City John Glenn among other larger opponents it faced this spring. The Panthers won their first Regional title since 2007 and have the pitching to finish this weekend with one more championship – junior Drew King also is 6-0 this season, with a 2.05 ERA.

Division 4

34-6, No. 2
Coach: Ben Botti, 18th season (376-180)
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2003), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: 3B sr. Stephen Botti (.322, 23 SB, 26 RBI, 8-2, 1.39 ERA), SS sr. Theodore Rufo (.514, 13 2B, 7 3B, 31 RBI, 38 SB), P sr. J.T. Kawaski (.328, 28 RBI, 9-1, 1.01 ERA, 81 K in 62.3 IP), 1B/P jr. Tim Cerven (9-0, 1.31 ERA, 94 K in 64 IP, .363, 34 R).
Outlook: This is Decatur’s first Semifinal appearance since 2003, which it finished with a second-straight MHSAA title. Botti, Rufo and Kawaski all were all-state first-teamers after last season’s run to the Quarterfinals, and they are only three of eight starters batting .320 or better.

Record/rank: 24-3, No. 1
Coach: Dan Cimini, ninth season (240-50)
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recently 2011), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Alexander Daar (15-0, 0.10 ERA, 153 K in 85 IP, .551, 38 RBI), 3B soph. Anthony Simon (.515, 26 RBI, 25 R), CF jr. Mark Evan Auk (.500, 33 R, 18 RBI, 4-2).
Outlook: University Liggett is three respectable losses from a perfect record – the Knights fell to Division 2 No. 5 Mount Pleasant, Semifinalist Dearborn Divine Child, and Division 1 Grosse Pointe North. Daar was an all-stater last season and has been nearly unhittable. Junior Connor Fannon also is a returning all-state first-teamer and is hitting .636 in limited at bats.

Record/rank: 26-8, unranked
Coach: Steve Schuitema, fourth season (77-37)
League finish: Second in River Valley Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: SS sr. Connor Seymour (.443, 36 R, 8-2, 1.95 ERA, 70 K in 52.7 IP), 1B/P fr. Nick Holt (9-2, 1.63), CF sr. Jason Ribecky (.400, 11 SB, 31 RBI).
Outlook: Despite an 8-1 start, MCC lost two of four games at the end of the regular season. But the Crusaders rebounded quickly and beat No. 5 Beal City on the way to the Semifinals. Four seniors start, but so do four underclassmen. Ribecky also was the star of the boys basketball team that made that Finals weekend in March.

Record/rank: 20-16, unranked
Coach: Ron VanSloten, 19th season (375-159-3)
League finish: Fifth in the Straits Area Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: C sr. Tyler Wilson (.495, 14 2B, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 20 SB), SS/P Brady VanSloten (.379, 38 R, 15 SB, 7-4, 1.75 ERA), 1B jr. Justin Kruger (.360, 20 RBI).
Outlook: Despite a fifth-place league finish and the graduation of two all-staters after last season, Rudyard is back at Bailey Park for the first time since 2007 and has won at least 20 games for the seventh straight season. After dropping four of their last eight regular-season games, the Bulldogs have won their postseason games by an average of 8.4 runs per.

PHOTO: Madison Heights Bishop Foley's Brett Kunde takes a swing during last season's Division 3 Final. Kunde will return to Bailey Park on Friday, and last week was drafted by the Oakland Athletics.