By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
At least once a week, former longtime Detroit Western International baseball coach Ziggy Gonzalez stops in to Cowboys practice to offer a taste of the program’s history.
“Big Dad” coached the 1972 team that fell 3-1 in the Class A Final and the 1973 team that advanced to the Semis. Among his former players was the late Todd Cruz, who earned a World Series ring as part of the 1983 Baltimore Orioles.
“I tell these guys, we don’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been,” current coach Juan Carlos Sanchez said.
Detroit Western is attempting to go somewhere a Detroit Public School league team hasn’t been in a while – and hoping to accomplish a feat no PSL school has attained before.
The Cowboys, recipients of this week’s Second Half team High 5, are 22-4 heading into this afternoon’s PSL Semifinal matchup against Detroit Cass Tech. Western hasn’t lost a league game in at least five seasons – but took that success to the next level last season when it came within an out of advancing to the MHSAA Division 1 Semifinals at Battle Creek’s Bailey Park.
Western led Temperance Bedford 2-0 in their Quarterfinal before falling 3-2 and ending the season 18-13 overall. Remembering that day, the Cowboys break huddles now with “3-2, Finish!”
“It’s been their focus and drive all year,” Sanchez said. “They’ve been determined to get back, and once I explained the magnitude of making history like that (as potentially the first champion from the PSL) … that’s something they want to be a part of.”
And the Cowboys have a number of reasons to anticipate this final month of the season.
Of 16 players, 14 were on the team during last season’s run. They are led by a strong core which will be back in 2013 as well – juniors Hector Gutierrez Jr. and Jose Ramon Morales, and sophomore Luis Chapa, the team’s top three pitchers and 2-3-4 hitters in the lineup. Gutierrez and Morales man the middle of the infield for the second straight season.
Their only losses this season were to No. 10 Macomb Dakota during spring break and then to top-ranked Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice. Sanchez purposely has tried to fill the schedule with strong competition, and the Cowboys should get a look at more top teams at Saturday’s Warren Mott Invitational.
They put in the work. Sanchez said he got texts all offseason from players asking for the key to the school’s batting cage. Seniors and juniors have led conditioning on off-days.
And they’ve got tradition and support. While the state rankings are filled with teams from suburbs and small towns, those from the state’s biggest cities frequently struggle. But southwest Detroit is a baseball community. There’s a thriving men’s league, and Sanchez – who grew up there, attended Detroit Catholic Central and played baseball at the University of Detroit – said it’s common to find pick-up games on Saturdays and Sundays.
"(Baseball) is something bred in us,” he said. “It’s passed down from generations, not just from dads but moms as well. It gets fed to them every day.”
Before last season, the Cowboys had come close to breaking through to the season’s final week during Sanchez' decade coaching in the program – and last season’s run sent the players’ confidence soaring.
Next month, they hope to take another championship step.
“We set the expectations high early,” he said. “We’re not just content to be a good city team. We want to win statewide.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Sophomore Tratez Henton stands in against a Detroit Martin Luther King pitcher this season. (Middle) Coaches speak to the team after its win over King. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)
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.