EAST LANSING - There’s exceeding a coach’s expectations, and then there is exceeding the expectations Bridgman head coach Justin Hahaj had for his team when the 2023 season started.
“I went through the schedule and thought we’d be a .500 baseball team,” Hahaj said.
Bridgman ended up being 24 games – and a Division 3 championship – better than that.
The Bees ended up 33-9, with the last win a 7-1 victory over No. 1-ranked Algonac in the Final on Saturday at Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium.
The title was Bridgman baseball’s first since 1987.
“This is a miracle what happened with this group,” Hahaj said. “It’s just a testament to what happens when people play for each other.”
It was the second time Hahaj had coached Bridgman in Final, with the first in 2013 when the Bees lost to Madison Heights Bishop Foley.
Bridgman hadn’t been beyond the District round of the MHSAA Tournament since, with hurdles such as 2022 Division 3 champion Buchanan and Niles Brandywine always standing in the way during the opening week.
In a District Final this year, Bridgman used an incredible comeback against Niles Brandywine to get past that barrier. The Bees rallied from a 9-1 deficit to beat Brandywine in 10 innings, 10-9.
Bridgman then recorded one-run wins in a Regional Final (4-3 over Grass Lake), Quarterfinal (4-3 over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in nine innings) and Semifinal (3-2 over Standish-Sterling) to earn a shot at Algonac.
“The team that comes out of that District — because we play such good baseball against each other — is just primed and ready for tournament runs,” Hahaj said.
Bridgman completed its long tournament run thanks to the pitching of sophomore Charlie Pagel. By no means a hard thrower, Pagel confounded Algonac with guile and an assortment of breaking pitches, tossing a 3-hitter.
He struck out five and walked one.
“I don’t throw very fast, so I just wanted to keep them off-balance with the off-speed and that was about it,” Pagel said.
Making its first appearance in a Final, Algonac finished 38-4.
In addition to not being able to figure out Pagel, defensive miscues also proved costly for the Muskrats.
“You know every pitcher is going to be a strike thrower when you get to this situation,” Algonac head coach Scott Thaler said of Pagel. “I thought he did a nice job of getting strike one over. His curveball was working, so he was able to get some groundballs. We didn’t really do a good job of adjusting to those curveballs and off-speed pitches.”
Bridgman opened the scoring with three runs in the bottom of the third inning, taking a 1-0 lead after loading the bases with one out.
An infield popup eluded Algonac and landed fair, and while the batter was out due to the infield fly rule, a run was able to score. Senior Riley Gloe then singled up the middle to score two runs, one of which was earned and another unearned following an Algonac throwing error. Senior Nolan Roberts then blooped a double down the right-field line to score a run and make it 4-0 Bees.
Bridgman added two runs in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Roberts and a fielder’s choice.
Algonac finally broke through in its half of the sixth, cutting Bridgman’s lead to 6-1 on an RBI single by junior Evan Sadler. But Bridgman got that run back in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI double by Pagel to make it 7-1.
Pagel, Gloe, Roberts and junior Alec MacMartin each had two hits to lead the 10-hit attack for Bridgman.
PHOTOS (Top) Bridgman scores one of its seven runs during Saturday’s Division 3 championship game. (Middle) Nolan Roberts (2) and a teammate celebrate. (Below) Bridgman’s Charlie Pagel delivers a pitch. (Photos by John Castine/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.