Beal City Ace Closes Finals-Filled Career with Perfection in Repeat

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING — Getting to pitch in a state championship game once is rare in itself. Doing so twice is even more improbable.

But three times during a career? Take a bow, Beal City senior Cayden Smith. 

Two years ago, Smith pitched two innings of relief in a loss to Riverview Gabriel Richard. Last year, he allowed one run in a complete-game win over Plymouth Christian Academy. 

Getting the ball again in a championship game Saturday, Smith saved the best for his last high school game and achieved something no pitcher had done before in a Final, throwing a perfect game in a 10-0 Beal City win over Norway that ended after five innings.

Smith, who will play for Central Michigan, struck out eight batters to earn his second-straight Finals win.

“Nerves are going to get to you every year,” Smith said. “It’s just who can overcome.”

The Aggies' Jack Fussman gets under a throw home to score. Smith did more than that in a performance that reduced Beal City head coach Brad Antcliff to tears of joy after the game when describing it.

“That’s Cayden Smith,” Antcliff said. “The kid is a gamer. He wants the ball. He had all the command of his pitches today, and he pounded the zone. You have kids that have ‘it.’ I can’t tell you what ‘it’ is. But Cayden Smith has ‘it.’ He’s a bulldog.”

Beal City’s offense was also potent, starting when senior Jack Fussman singled home Smith for the first run in the bottom of the first inning. 

Beal City (34-6) then grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second on an RBI single with two outs by junior Owen McKenny. 

The Aggies kept the pressure on in the third, scoring four times to take a 6-0 lead. Senior Lane Gross hit a two-run double to the gap in right-center, and then Smith helped his own cause with a two-run double that made it 5-0 Beal City. A walk with the bases loaded gave the Aggies a 6-0 advantage. 

In the sixth inning, Beal City took an 8-0 lead on a two-run single by Fussman, and then completed the game via the run-differential rule when a single up the middle by senior Josh Wilson ended up scoring two runs with a Norway throwing error to home. 

An Aggies hitter lines up a pitch.Fussman finished with four RBI for Beal City, which won its sixth Finals title in school history. 

Even in defeat, Norway produced a terrific story. 

The Knights (28-4-1) were attempting to become the first team from the Upper Peninsula to win a Finals title in baseball, and getting to the championship game was no small feat, especially after beating a team from the Catholic High School League, Marine City Cardinal Mooney, in a Semifinal. 

But Norway simply ran into a buzzsaw in Smith and a Beal City team that was ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason.

“We’re going to cherish it forever,” Norway head coach Tony Adams said. “It was a heck of an accomplishment. We made school history, we made history for the Upper Peninsula, and today’s result isn’t going to diminish that. You can’t take that away.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Beal City’s Cayden Smith (26) makes his move toward the plate during his team’s Division 4 championship win. (Middle) The Aggies' Jack Fussman gets under a throw home to score. (Below) A Beal City hitter lines up a pitch.