BC Western Writing Storybook Season with Celebrations, Early Success

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

April 26, 2023

Before a single pitch was thrown this season, there was plenty for the Bay City Western baseball program to be excited about.

Bay & ThumbSome of it was historic: Coach Tim McDonald entered the year three wins away from 800 in his career, and, during the season, the program is set to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 2013 Division 1 championship team. 

But the present was just as exciting. 

Led by a strong group of seniors that started a program rebuild in 2021, the Warriors figured to have one of their strongest teams in years.

Then the pitches started getting thrown, and the excitement may have been kicked up a notch.

Western is 14-0 to start the season, and living up to its lofty expectations in a year where it just feels like everything is already a celebration.

“It’s kind of freaky the way it’s kind of lining up right now,” said senior pitcher Ben Kohany. “We have our goals in mind, but we’re still taking it game by game. Obviously, there is that pressure (from the program’s past success), but we’re just trying to take things slowly.”

Western’s success on the field this season is the result of a simple formula: good pitching, solid defense and the ability to manufacture runs. 

It’s a formula that helps the Warriors to focus on what’s directly in front of them, and not look ahead when they have big postseason goals that could otherwise distract them.

“We just play together as a team – we trust each other, make plays and get the job done,” junior catcher Bryce Neitzel said. “Every day in practice we work on the fundamentals. Especially with bunting, we do a station of bunting every day. I feel like it does help, because whenever we’re in a situation in a game, we’re prepared for the moment. We kind of expect it.”

It’s also a formula that has won McDonald and the Warriors a lot of games over his 31 years as a coach – 811, to be exact.

“We have a philosophy, things we emphasize and things we work on,” McDonald said. “We’re kind of known for our small ball, and we kind of got away from that. This year’s team, one of the many things they understand is that at some point, that’s going to become important. They’re just rock solid. They’re a good practice team, and that translates.”

The Warriors play in the Bay County Invitational on April 15.When the season began, McDonald had 797 career wins, which put him 12th on the MHSAA’s all-time list. It took just three games, and a bit of serendipity, to become the 11th coach in state history to reach 800.

The Warriors swept Flushing in their season-opening doubleheader, which gave McDonald the chance to get win No. 800 against his alma mater, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, in a game that was a late addition to the schedule.

And just to make it a little more personal, Sacred Heart is coached by Earl Hartman, who coached McDonald and is one of the 10 ahead of him on the all-time list; and McDonald’s nephew, Joe McDonald, was the starting pitcher for the Irish.

“It sounds like a Hollywood script, but that’s just how it all fell into place,” McDonald said. “It was certainly a neat day, and that just added to it.”

While McDonald knew how close he was to the milestone coming into the season, he wasn’t planning on making a big deal of it. The people around him, of course, had other plans.

“They had cupcakes, and my AD got a plaque made for me,” McDonald said. “Somebody did some work behind the scenes, and all of that is appreciated. I’m proud to represent this program. If me, as the head coach, has a lot of wins, that means the school has a lot of wins. I’ve been fortunate to be in a good baseball community. They had good baseball before I came. I’m proud of the foundation that we built, and I think it’s just continued on.”

Getting to be part of that historic moment was a thrill for the current Western players.

“That was super cool,” senior third baseman Miles Yurgaites said. “That’s a lot of wins. It was a super cool moment, and a super fun day.”

The timing was also great for the Warriors, and not just because of the opponent in Game 3 of the season.

“I’m glad it happened early in the season,” McDonald said. “We got to enjoy the moment, and now we can move onto some of our goals that we set for ourselves. That worked out in a good way, as well. Now this team, they’ve become focused, because we still got a lot of work ahead of us. They’re staying humble in their approach, and every one of them knows they have some things they can get better at. As a coach, that’s all you can ask.”

Helping McDonald drive home that message is a trio of assistants who are Western alumni: Brian Patrick, Brendan “Bubba” Harrison and Brandon Wise. Patrick has been on the staff for 12 years, while Harrison (2013) and Wise (2014) were each part of Finals championship teams for the Warriors.

Not only does that give McDonald the luxury of coaching with people who know how a championship program is run, it also gives the Western players a daily look at what it takes to get back there.

“It does help,” Neitzel said. “They have all that experience, and they’ve shared all their memories with us. It makes us want to do what they did.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bay City Western celebrates coach Tim McDonald's 800th win April 8. (Middle) The Warriors play in the Bay County Invitational on April 15. (Photos courtesy of the Bay City Western baseball program.)

Record-Setter Prout Helps Pace Standish-Sterling's 2022 Semifinals Run

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

December 27, 2023

Standish-Sterling’s run to the 2022 Division 3 Semifinals was driven in part by a record-setting offense, including a pair of senior standouts who posted single-season and career highlights.

The Panthers made the team record book in four categories, topped by a record 28 triples over 42 games. They also were added for 371 RBI (fourth all-time), 425 runs (12th) and 414 hits.

Cole Prout tied the MHSAA record for runs scored in one season with 84 and set the record with 27 career triples over three seasons (with 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). His 13 triples in 2022 tied for third on that list, while Chase Raymond’s 10 tied for 11th. Prout also tied for 12th all-time with 182 career runs, while Raymond is eighth on the single-season RBI list with 77 over 42 games in 2022 and earned a career RBI entry with 140.

Prout plays now at Central Michigan, and Raymond is playing at Saginaw Valley State.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA baseball record book:

Alden Stefanovski played a major role in Whitmore Lake reaching the 2022 Division 4 Semifinals. The senior also made the record book with 20 doubles over 33 games, the first from his school to earn a listing. He was joined in 2023 in the records by senior Alex Di Dio, who hit nine triples over 29 games and also three home runs in one game April 13 against Adrian Madison. Di Dio also was added for 13 triples and a .460 average for his three-season career, and he’s continuing at Kalamazoo College.

Trenton senior Jason Marshall was nearly unstoppable on the base paths during the 2022 season – and perfect stealing on them. He made the record book with 49 steals in 49 attempts, and also for seven triples over 35 games. He’s playing football at Eastern Michigan.

Trent Hagenbach finished his Saginaw Valley Lutheran career in 2022 tied for 11th on the career triples list with 16 despite not having a 2020 season and hitting all of them over the final two. He also made the records for his seven as a junior and nine as a senior.

Dansville had 10 pitchers contribute to its 388 strikeouts over 38 games during the 2022 season, a total which placed the Aggies second all-time. Tucker Mosley paced the team with 137 strikeouts.

Parchment’s Aaron Jasiak finished his three-season varsity career with seven record book entries, including one of the most impressive winning streaks all-time. He won all 26 pitching starts over his career, which didn’t start until his sophomore season because of the COVID-related cancelation of 2020. His winning streak is the seventh longest in MHSAA history, and his 0.87 ERA ranks 11th. He also made career lists with 163 runs scored, 112 stolen bases and a .460 batting average over 103 games, and his 60 steals over 38 games this spring rank 10th. He’s continuing at Hillsdale College.

Bay City Western finished 42-2 in winning the Division 1 championship in 2013, ranking sixth for most wins in a baseball season. The Warriors also tied the record with 21 shutouts, and their 1.02 ERA ranks fifth all-time.

Grandville Calvin Christian senior Blake Pettijohn struck out 20 batters in a 7-0 win over Belding on May 11, which tied for seventh-most for a seven-inning game. He’s continuing at Hope College.

Grant’s Oakley Obenauf made the single-season stolen bases list in the spring with 45 over 29 games – and was a major contributor as his team made the single-game list multiple times. He had a combined eight steals over two games as Grant swiped 13 and 11 bases during halves of a doubleheader May 11. Obenauf is a senior this school year.

Paw Paw reached the team record book this past spring after being hit by 50 pitches over 30 games. Seven players were hit by at least five pitches, with the team leader totaling 10.

Lansing Eastern earned its first record book entries from a pair of graduating seniors this spring. Dominic Wilson capped his three-season varsity career with 134 stolen bases, which rank 10th. He swiped a career-high 51 as a senior. Teammate Matthew Stevenson made the career batting average list at .472 despite getting only eight at bats as a sophomore because of an injury.

Benzie Central’s Wyatt Noffsinger enjoyed a memorable run to nearly finish off his high school career, throwing consecutive no-hitters against Buckley on May 24 and then Manton on June 3.

Okemos then-junior Caleb Bonemer earned his first record book entry with three home runs June 3 against Grand Ledge as his team clinched a Division 1 District title. Bonemer has committed to sign with Virginia.

After 45 years, Flint Southwestern’s Ruben Luna and Risto Nicevski were added for their accomplishments on the 1978 Class A championship team. Luna made the wins list with a record of 14-0 and the ERA list with a 0.71, and Nicevski made the ERA list with a 0.72. Both went on to play at Michigan State.

East Lansing’s Sam Busch enjoyed a career day on April 12, 2019, when he hit three home runs in consecutive at bats against Ionia. A junior that season, he’s now playing at Michigan State.

Powers North Central’s Adrian Mercier enjoyed a record-worthy junior season this spring. He hit .619 over 32 games, ranking 10th all-time for a single season.

Whitehall senior Cayden Ritchie chased and nearly caught the single-season stolen base record in 2021, when he tied for second with 72 steals over 36 games. He also made the single-game steals list five times, twice with a high of six.  

Aidan Liedeke capped his Brighton Charyl Stockwell career in the spring with some of the most impressive strikeout numbers in state history. Already listed for averaging 15.41 strikeouts per game as a junior in 2022, he averaged 14.92 Ks per game this spring to finish his three-season career at 15 strikeouts per game. He posted a 0.88 ERA in the spring as well to finish with a career 1.52. He’s playing at Kalamazoo College.

Killian Bies finished his Marshall three-season career in the spring among leaders all-time for getting hit by pitches. He already had tied for sixth as a sophomore in 2021 with 22 HBPs, and with 14 more both his junior and senior seasons he finished with 50 to rank fifth on that list. He’s continuing at Cornerstone.

PHOTO Standish-Sterling's Cole Prout (8) readies for a pitch during his team's 2022 Division 3 Semifinal.