EAST LANSING – Traverse City Francis relied primarily on a two-headed monster to get it to the Division 3 Semifinals this season.
But once there, another formidable force emerged for the Gladiators.
The dynamic duo all season has been junior ace Charlie Peterson and senior catcher Aidan Schmuckal, and those two delivered again for St. Francis in a 5-4 win over Richmond at McLane Stadium.
Schmuckal went 2-for-3 with two RBI, while Peterson allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings pitched despite laboring at the end and being taken out in the fifth after throwing 109 pitches.
But that’s where the third hero of the day entered for St. Francis.
Senior Jack Hitchens entered for Peterson in the fifth and settled the game down, tossing 2 2/3 innings of scoreless to relief to help lock down the game for the Gladiators.
Hitchens allowed just one hit.
“Just hitting your spots and throwing strikes,” Hitchens said of what made his outing effective. “Hit the outside corner, and it’s really hard for high school athletes to hit that.”
St. Francis advanced to the Final for the first time since 2017, when it finished runner-up to Madison Heights Bishop Foley.
The Gladiators (28-9) won Thursday despite committing five errors.
“We made uncharacteristic errors, but the kids just battled,” head coach Tom Passinault said. “Charlie’s pitch count went a lot higher and quicker than we thought. Jack Hitchens just did a tremendous job against a really good team.”
Richmond (30-6) likely will lament missed opportunities, as the Blue Devils left 10 runners on base and couldn’t score with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth inning.
“All year long, we were able to get that key hit,” Richmond head coach Scott Evans said. “Whether it was pressure or heat, we couldn’t. Give their guys credit.”
St. Francis opened the scoring in the first when Cody Richards hit an RBI single to score Schmuckal, who had reached on a walk and took second on a sacrifice bunt.
St. Francis added two more runs in the second inning, loading the bases and then taking a 3-0 lead on an opposite-field two-run double down the right field line by Schmuckal.
Hitchens then made it 4-0 St. Francis on an RBI groundout to second base.
Richmond answered in the third inning, taking advantage of a two-out error by St. Francis and cutting its deficit to 4-1 on an RBI single by Hudson Davenport.
Richmond had its golden opportunity in the fourth inning when it loaded the bases with nobody out, but Peterson struck out Richmond’s first three hitters in the lineup to get out of the jam.
The Blue Devils did strike in the fifth inning, scoring three runs to tie the game at 4-4. The big blow was a two-run double to the wall in left-center by Jackson Jones.
St. Francis responded in its half of the fifth, taking a 5-4 lead on a single by Josh Groves.
“They just don’t know when to be nervous,” Passinault said of his team. “They just play even-keel.”
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 2, Buchanan 0
The final Semifinal of the day was the quickest, mainly because it was a terrific pitchers duel between Liggett junior Kurt Barr and Buchanan junior Matt Hoover.
Barr was just a bit better, tossing a two-hit shutout to lead Liggett to a 2-0 victory over Buchanan and its second-straight trip to the Division 3 Final.
“I’ve been going with my slider all season, but today my curveball was going in the pen,” Barr said. “From the second inning on, I only threw the curveball and ditched the slider. The slider has been the pitch I’ve been rolling with all season.”
Liggett, which lost to Homer in the 2019 championship game, will play Traverse City St. Francis.
“Everything clicked,” Liggett head coach Dan Cimini said. “When you get this far, you know you are going to run into pitching like that, and you have to be able to combat that. You combine that by having great pitching with it and great defense.”
Liggett (30-5) scored the only two runs of the game in the top of the first inning, the first coming on an RBI single by Matt Greene.
The next came courtesy of Ryan Jones, who doubled down the right field line to make it 2-0 Liggett.
That was more than enough support for Barr, who struck out nine and walked just one.
Barr did run into a bit of trouble in the fourth inning, when Buchanan put runners on second and third with two outs.
But Barr induced a groundout to end the threat.
Hoover was stellar as well, tossing a three-hitter, striking out five and walking five.
Sophomore Jarren Purify reached base three times and scored a run to lead Liggett offensively.
Buchanan finished its season 34-3.
“I’m proud of the way the boys competed,” Buchanan head coach Jim Brawley said. “This is a working group. … These kids came to work every day, and I’m proud of them for that.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City St. Francis’ Cody Richards takes the throw at first as Richmond’s Hudson Davenport speeds down the line. (Middle) University Liggett’s Kurt Barr makes his move toward the plate.
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.