Beal City Sets Tone, USA Enjoys Prime Time

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 15, 2018

EAST LANSING – The moment. The venue. It all got to Beal City’s Keegan Haynes as he took the mound to begin his team’s Division 4 Semifinal against Gaylord St. Mary on Saturday.

Haynes retired the first batter, gave up a base hit and proceeded to throw 10 straight balls walking the bases full before going 2-0 on the fifth batter, Alex Pudvan. Aggies coach Steve Pickens came out to talk to his junior pitcher, settle him down and hopefully instill some confidence.

Haynes threw a strike and then got a bouncer to start a double play, pitcher to home to first. Just like that, the Aggies escaped the top of the first inning unscathed – and that changed everything.

Beal City scored twice in the bottom of the inning and tacked on four more runs in the second on the way to defeating St. Mary 7-3 at McLane Stadium to advance to Saturday’s championship game, which will be its first since 2014.

Beal City (22-8), winners of three previous MHSAA baseball titles, will play first-time finalist Unionville-Sebewaing (22-15) at 2:30 p.m. USA scored four in the first inning and went on to defeat St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, 5-1, in the second Semifinal.

“That pretty much defined the game for us,” St. Mary coach Matt Nowicki said. “That first (inning) could have been promising for us.”

Instead of scoring a run or more, and perhaps knocking Haynes out of the game, St. Mary was deflated.

Conversely, Beal City got pumped up. Run-scoring singles by Haynes and catcher Cameron Lynch staked Haynes to a 2-0 lead. When the Aggies added four the next inning, keyed by Kollion Sharrar’s two-run triple, Haynes and Beal City were in command.

“I told (Haynes) to trust his defense,” Pickens said. “With that double play, we were only one pitch away from getting out of the inning.

“Hey, that’s a good team over there. We scored a number of runs today with two outs. We’re getting some timely hitting. We were moving the ball. We didn’t strike out much (four times) today.”

St. Mary (26-6) scored all of its runs in the fifth inning, stringing together five consecutive singles to knock Haynes out of the game. That was good and bad news for the Snowbirds. They finally got on the board, but the run also prompted Pickens to bring in his ace. Senior Brett Upton, 11-2 on the season, fanned the first two batters he faced, then got a pop out to shortstop that stranded two runners.

Upton, who threw 23 pitches in retiring all five batters he faced, will be ready to start on the mound in the title game.

“I had all the confidence in the world in (Haynes),” Upton said. “I wasn’t coming in at that time anyway. We had all the confidence in the world in our offense and that we’d come back and score. That double play was a big momentum swing. That was huge for us. The plan for me today was to come in for an inning or so and get used to the mound. I’m ready.”

Aaron Schafer relieved Upton in the sixth and got the final four outs.

Haynes got credit for the win and he also went 3 for 3 with two RBI.

“The nerves got the best of me in that first inning,” Haynes said. “(Pickens) said to me to throw strikes and calm down. Giving up no runs in the first, that was the best-case scenario. This is the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in.”

For St. Mary, Drew Long went all six innings and pitched well after the first two. Joseph Moeggenberg had two hits and an RBI.

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Aaron Schafer scores on a close play at the plate in the fourth inning for Beal City off a single by Ryan Schafer. 


Unionville-Sebewaing 5, St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 1

Brendan Prime went the first 5 1/3 innings for USA to earn the victory. He survived a shaky start, and when his pitch count ran out, Devin Riskey came to his rescue. Riskey, likely Saturday’s starting pitcher, allowed one hit and struck out two in his 1 2/3 innings of work.

Prime allowed three hits and one run in the first inning, and allowed just one hit after.

“I don’t think I was in a groove yet,” Prime said. “After those four runs, when they got that one, I didn’t think about it much.”

Last season USA scored a bunch of runs early in a Division 4 Semifinal but failed to close out Portland St. Patrick. USA led 7-3 after three innings in that one before St. Patrick came back to win, 12-8, and go on to claim the championship.

“I thought back to St. Patrick last year,” USA coach Tyler Bader said. “We talk about getting to teams early. We wanted to stay on top. Stay on top. Stay on top.

“I felt we were going to do well in the tournament in the Districts. We’re not done yet.”

USA batted around in the first inning; the big hit was Braden Carter’s two-run single.

For Lake Michigan Catholic (27-4), starting pitcher Matthew Defay had a triple and scored on Jacob Kissane’s sacrifice fly. Defay gave up all five runs, but only two were earned.

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Unionville-Sebewaing's four-run first inning was highlighted by this two-run single by Braden Carter

PHOTOS: (Top) A Beal City runner tries to beat a throw to third base during his team’s Semifinal win over Gaylord St. Mary. (Middle) Unionville-Sebewaing’s Brendan Prime delivers a pitch as the Patriots earned a trip to Saturday’s championship game.

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.)