Ace Paces Richard's Championship Triumph

June 16, 2018

By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – He’d seen a dropped third strike 100 times before Saturday’s championship game.

Excuse Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Matthew Silka for getting caught up in the moment.

With two outs in the seventh inning, the junior got a swinging third strike to seemingly clinch his team’s first MHSAA baseball title. But his biting breaking ball ended up in the dirt – so he looked at the catcher, then glanced at first. Finally, he turned and looked at his second baseman, who was charging toward him to celebrate.

At that moment, he figured it out. His team had just won the Division 3 championship, defeating reigning champ Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 3-0.

“I was so confused,” said Silka, smiling with a championship medal hanging from his neck. “That’s not an ideal way to end the game, because I’m not sure if we won or not. I was looking at the first base ump to see if he was going to call him out or not. We were all waiting for someone to say something.”

The game-ending strikeout was his seventh of the game, one he dominated from start to finish. Silka, a junior, allowed just one hit, that coming in the seventh inning. Prior to that single, he was on his way to becoming the first pitcher to toss a complete-game no hitter in MHSAA Finals history.

Instead, he became just the fifth pitcher in Finals history to allow just one hit in a complete game.

“I was trying to keep (the ball) to the corners, and not make too many mistakes and leave the ball over the heart of the plate,” Silka said. “I was just trying to throw strikes and help my teammates out.”

His teammates helped him out early on, scoring a run in the second, third and fourth innings to stake him to a 3-0 advantage.

The Pioneers scored their first run unconventionally. Leadoff batter Hayden Burke reached on a dropped third strike. The junior then moved over to second base on a walk to fellow junior Frank Klamerus. Those two advanced to second and third thanks to a pair of wild pitches. Burke then scored on a fielder’s choice by junior Hayden Flynn to make it 1-0.

In the third inning, Richard pieced together three singles – the last by Flynn plated junior Niko Maloney. In the fourth inning, the Pioneers used a walk, sacrifice bunt and an RBI-single by sophomore David Zubor to cap off their scoring, giving Silka more than he needed to get the job done.

“I think momentum is one of the biggest parts of the game,” Silka said. “That was really huge for us to get out in front. I knew once we had a lead and we got rolling, it was going to be a lot easier to pitch.”

Richard coach Mike Magier said Silka’s success was due to his ability to keep the Ventures off balance.

“He went through the lineup one time and he gained a little confidence, and he could use his secondary pitches a little bit more,” Magier said. “(Silka) has been a workhorse for us. He’s really been a competitor.

“He’s been our ace. He’s pitched against all our tough teams.”

Bishop Foley (19-18-1) could muster just one hit – from sophomore Liam Pollock to lead off the seventh inning. 

“That’s baseball,” Foley coach Tim McEvoy said. “We ran into a stud pitcher who threw strikes. He kept us off balance, and we weren’t able to get out in front of his fastball. That was the main issue. 

“I want to congratulate their coaching staff. They have a great staff and a great pitcher.”

For Richard (29-3), this could be just a taste of what’s to come next year. There are no seniors on the roster, so everyone should be back for another title run in 2019.

“I guess it’s kind of unusual,” said Magier, talking about a lack of seniors on his roster. “That (junior) class, as soon as they came in in ninth grade, we had three or four guys come up on varsity and we knew we had a pretty good class there. 

“It takes a lot to win a state championship, so we won’t take it for granted. We’re going to enjoy this one, and hopefully next year we can do the same.”

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Gabriel Richard pitcher Matthew Silka finishes his seventh strikeout, which wrapped up the 3-0 win over the Ventures.

PHOTOS: (Top) Gabriel Richard ace Matthew Silka makes his move toward the plate Saturday. (Middle) A Pioneers runner tries to slide in under the tag of Bishop Foley catcher Mason Minzey.

Softball Standout Finds New Home in Addison Baseball Lineup

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

April 23, 2024

ADDISON – Alisha Gahn has a new bat, new mitt, and new uniform this season.

Greater DetroitThe Addison senior didn’t transfer schools or move into a new district. She picked up a new sport – baseball.

“She’s doing really well,” said Addison head coach Rick Gramm. “She’s adjusted just fine.”

Gahn has had a love for softball from a young age and jumped into recreation and travel leagues early on while starting to pitch to her dad, Kelly.

She played for three years with the Addison varsity with her dad a co-head coach. When Addison decided to re-post the coaching job this past offseason, Kelly said he stepped aside. In the aftermath, Alisha decided to not play softball for Addison this spring.

Baseball became a possibility, and Kelly Gahn told his daughter he’d support whatever she decided.

“I just wanted to do something,” Alisha Gahn said. “I didn’t want to sit around and be sad that I didn’t play softball.”

She started attending Addison’s offseason baseball workouts.

“She told me she was leaning toward playing baseball rather than softball,” Gramm said. “We talked about it and checked into it. Opening day came, she showed up to the tryouts and she did well in the cage, and she throws the ball well.

“She’s just got a mind for the game. The rules of baseball and softball are basically the same, so she knows what she is doing out there.”

Gahn, who recently turned 18, is having a blast.

In a doubleheader against Tekonsha on Friday, Gahn went 2-for-3 at the plate. She’s playing mainly rightfield but also has been penciled into the Panthers lineup as a designated hitter.

The biggest thing for her personally is she’s no longer a pitcher. Last year she went 12-6 with 177 strikeouts in 107 innings for the Addison softball team in earning a Division 4 all-state honorable mention.

“Pitching is my thing,” she said. “That’s what I’ve done for years. That is what I did. That was my place on a team. That’s not my place in baseball.

It took some time to adjust to high school baseball pitching as well.

“The hitting is definitely different,” she said. “But I think that is what we work on as a team the most, so that helps.”

Gramm said Gahn - who hit .357 in 115 at-bats in softball last year - can hit on this diamond as well.

Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing.“We didn’t know how she would adjust to the pitching – the smaller ball, the distance (from the pitcher’s mound to home plate). She connects. She puts the ball in play. She does very good at the plate.”

Gahn said she likes baseball so far. She's even adjusting to her new mitt.

“I always knew there were differences between baseball and softball,” she said. “Whenever I watch Major League Baseball on TV, it looks like a bunch of guys trying to get home runs. After playing it, I like it. It’s pushed me and forced me to grow in the other positions.”

One of main differences is on the basepaths.

“On Friday, I got a hit and got on base,” she said. “My first base coach was talking to me. I got a little bit distracted, and I got picked off. I definitely learned something.”

Gahn said her new teammates have been great.

“Getting to know how to interact with a team of guys is different,” she said. “I have to find ways to connect with them. We are all playing the same sport, though. We are just players on the same team, just playing baseball. It’s slowly getting more comfortable. (But) there are times I miss playing on a team of girls.”

“She fits in just fine,” Gramm said of her move to baseball. “She’s part of the guys and part of the team. They just want to play and just want to win. The team has taken to her. They know her, and she’s part of that senior group anyways. I think she is having a good, fun time. It hasn’t been much of a transition at all. She’s been a welcome addition.”

Softball is still part of Gahn’s life.

Missouri is one of the few states that plays softball in the fall, which means travel softball season is in the spring. Gahn and her family pack up on the weekends and head south to play on a travel team, something the MHSAA allows since she is not currently playing softball in Michigan. It’s a seven-hour drive, one way.

“At first I was just going to go down south on the weekends and play softball,” she said. “Then I got to thinking what about baseball. We looked it up, went through the rules and it worked out perfectly. The MHSAA says softball is not the same sport as baseball. I can play baseball for Addison and go down south to play softball.”

Gahn, who also dances competitively and golfs – she tied for 18th in the latter at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final in the fall – wants to play softball in college. She’s talked to a few coaches, she said, who are supportive of her decision to play baseball this spring.

“I’ve put so much work into softball,” she said. “College is the next step for me. I’m super excited. At the end of the day, I just want to play softball.”

Gahn said her and her family did have a conversation about moving to a new district, but she was against that.

“I just want to graduate with my friends,” she said. “Sports are important to me, but I didn’t want to uproot my life. The easiest decision might have been to just move and go somewhere else. I didn’t want to do that. I’m happy right now.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Alisha Gahn hangs out with her baseball teammates in the dugout this season. (Middle) Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing. (Photos courtesy of Kelly Gahn.)