Aces Lead Holland Christian, Linden in D2

June 16, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Mike Mokma had four innings Thursday morning to scout DeWitt’s lineup as he watched his school’s first MHSAA Semifinal from his post at first base.

As if the Holland Christian ace needed help, he also appears to take exceptional mental notes.

Mokma moved to the mound for the fifth inning, relieving teammate David Williams, and struck out five of nine batters he faced over three innings as the Maroons rallied to claim a 4-3 win over DeWitt and their first championship game berth.

Mokma, a senior who has signed with Michigan State University, improved to 14-0 this season and almost surely will get the call at McLane Stadium to pitch Saturday’s 9 a.m. Final.

“(Coach Jim) Caserta said entering the fifth inning to get ready, to start being ready mentally. Just staying in the game with every pitch, knowing what the hitter’s doing,” said Mokma, who struck out the side upon entering in the fifth inning with a runner on and a run just scored for DeWitt.

“The momentum swung from them to us,” Mokma added, “so it was good.”

Holland Christian (35-6), ranked No. 3 at the end of the regular season, will face No. 5 Linden on Saturday. Caserta, who led Holland West Ottawa to the Division 1 title in 2003 and is in his third season with the Maroons, will have the opportunity to become the first coach in MHSAA history to lead two programs to baseball titles.

His team advanced with a late and opportunistic rally after DeWitt took a 2-0 lead during the bottom of the fourth inning.

Holland Christian came back with two runs in the top of the fifth to tie the score. DeWitt scored its second go-ahead run in the bottom of that inning off Williams, leading to the pitching change.

Holland Christian tied it up again in the top of the sixth as junior Brady Brower singled home senior Josh Sterenberg, who had moved to third base on a passed ball. After Mokma retired DeWitt in order in the bottom of the sixth, Sterenberg had a hand in the winning run as well with a sacrifice fly to drive home junior pinch runner Cam Schut, who had made it to third on an error.

Mokma retired DeWitt’s final three batters in order to end the game.

“We had confidence in David. He’s been throwing great, so we felt coming in he was a little more rested than Mike was,” Caserta said. “(Mokma) could’ve started the game, but Mike will do what we need for the team. He’ll start, he’ll relieve; he’ll do what we need. He’s also carried us at the plate all year.”

Williams, who will play next season at Xavier University, gave up only one earned run over his four innings before moving behind the plate when Mokma came on in relief. DeWitt had only five hits, including two by sophomore catcher Kade Preston.

DeWitt junior Michael Stygles gave up only one earned run throwing all seven innings for the Panthers (30-10-1), who made their second Semifinal appearance in three seasons and graduate only two starters from Thursday’s lineup.

“It’s great to see the kids accomplish what they set out to do, especially when you set your goals this high,” DeWitt coach Al Shankel said. “To get here was great. We wanted a couple more.

“We felt we could get to their starter, and we started hitting the ball pretty hard off him. Credit to them that they went to (Mokma), because I think that would’ve continued.”

Click for the full box score.

Linden 5, Dearborn Divine Child 2

While the rain began to fall harder Thursday, Linden’s spirits soared as it earned its first championship game berth since 2004 with a comeback win over the five-time champion Falcons.

Junior pitcher Lucas Marshall allowed only one earned run and struck out four in tossing a complete game for the Eagles (29-9-1), who increased their postseason run margin to a combined 23-3 over six opponents.

“It just shows that we’re not really the little guy anymore,” Marshall said. “We’re here to play anybody; it doesn’t matter. We’re going to give them our best game.”

Divine Child (27-16) scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning. But Linden came back with three in the third inning and two in the fourth to put the game away.

Sophomore Nick Koan had a two-run single, the only player on either team to drive in more than one run. Junior Nick Gurney gave up only six hits for Divine Child.

“These guys are just blowing me away,” Linden coach Steve Buerkel said. “Because we lost a strong senior class last year. We had six kids that went on to play college baseball. We returned two starters. … We’ve just got a lot of kids that have a lot of heart and never give up and play hard.”

Click for the full box score

PHOTOS: (Top) Holland Christian's Chris Mokma lays down a bunt during his team's win over DeWitt at McLane Stadium. (Middle) Linden's Lucas Marshall prepares to unload a pitch during Thursday's Division 2 Semifinal win over Divine Child.

For Coach: Powers Completes 1st Title Run for 42-Year Leader Dutkowski

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING — On behalf of this current Flint Powers Catholic baseball team, Saturday’s message was loud and clear to past players, alumni and school officials:

We finally did it for Tom. 

Tom would be longtime head coach Tom Dutkowski, who after 42 years and 872 wins finally got to coach in a state championship game Saturday. 

Not only did Powers get there for Dutkowski, but the Chargers delivered win No. 873 and his long-awaited first title as coach with an 11-0 defeat of Spring Lake in the Division 2 Final at McLane Stadium. 

“We just made Flint Powers history, and to be a part of that is amazing,” Powers senior Fischer Hendershot said. “We have a lot of alumni and a lot of alumni on the coaching staff. To do it for the coaching staff, everyone here, everyone in Powers, every alumni and everyone who cares about us is a great feeling.” 

The Chargers’ Fischer Hendershot delivers a pitch.After accepting the championship trophy and raising into the air triumphantly, Dutkowski reflected on the journey and long wait.

It was the third title for Powers baseball, joining the 1974 and 1980 championships. Dutkowski was an assistant on the 1980 team. 

“I played in ’73 here, and my joke for that was that I taught the ’74 guys everything they knew and then they won a state championship the next year,” Dutkowski said. “We won it in ’80 with just a gritty team. My third year as a head coach we got to the final four in Class A, and I figured this was going to happen every three years. And then it was a 39-year drought in terms of that.”

The game ended after five innings via the run differential rule and capped off a fairly dominant season for Powers — or at least as dominant as a baseball team can be for a season.

The Chargers finished 37-6 and outscored opponents by a combined 57-13 during the MHSAA Tournament.

The only close call during the playoffs came in Friday’s Semifinal, when Powers blew a 3-0 lead to Trenton before prevailing in the bottom of the eighth inning, 4-3, on a walk-off single by senior Gavin Darling. 

“These guys, they never flinched and they never wavered,” Dutkowski said. “They developed into being a great team, not just individual talent.”

Powers wasted no time against Spring Lake, taking a 2-0 lead with one out in the top of the first inning on a two-run double to the gap in left-center by Darling. After a ground out, Darling scored on a Spring Lake throwing error to give Powers a 3-0 lead. 

Powers added another run in the second inning on a bases-loaded walk to make it 4-0. 

Teammates congratulate Michael Klein (6) as he returns to the dugout.In the third, Powers scored four runs to take an 8-0 lead on an RBI single by Hendershot, a walk with the bases loaded and a two-run single by freshman Connor Kelly. 

Powers then put three more runs on the board in the fourth inning to take an 11-0 lead. 

Hendershot was the winner on the mound, allowing two hits and striking out five in five innings of work. 

Spring Lake also was attempting to win its first Finals title, but had to settle for its third runner-up finish (to go with those from 1995 and 1978). 

The Lakers finished 32-10. 

“They are a good team, and this was their year,” Spring Lake head coach Bill Core said. “We just couldn’t keep them off of the bases, and our pitching wasn’t as sharp as it’s been. We gave them a couple of free passes, and they mixed in some good hitting. That’s a good team, and that’s why they’ve been ranked No. 1 in the state all year.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Flint Powers Catholic raises its championship trophy to complete the 2024 baseball season Saturday evening at McLane Stadium. (Middle) The Chargers’ Fischer Hendershot delivers a pitch. (Below) Teammates congratulate Michael Klein (6) as he returns to the dugout.