D1 Semis: South Seeks to Unseat Champ

June 12, 2014

By Andy Sneddon
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – One big inning, one big relief performance.

And Grosse Pointe South will play for an MHSAA baseball championship. 

The Blue Devils used a five-run fourth inning and the clutch relief pitching of Andrew Eaton in topping Battle Creek Lakeview, 6-4, on Thursday in an MHSAA Division 1 Semifinal at Michigan State’s McLane Baseball Stadium.

South (27-17), seeking its first championship since 2001, will play defending champ Bay City Western (37-7) in the title game Saturday. 

Western, ranked No. 4, advanced with a 6-1 victory over Clarkston and will attempt to become the first school in the 43-year history of the MHSAA tournament to win back-to-back championships at the highest level (Division I or Class A).

South is unranked and largely unheralded, but far from untested. The Blue Devils overcame a 7-12 start to win the rugged Macomb Area Conference Red and upset second-ranked Sterling Heights Stevenson on Tuesday in a Quarterfinal. South had lost three times, by a combined 26-5, to Stevenson during the regular season. 

“I’m so proud of this group,” said Dan Griesbaum, who is in his 31st season as South’s coach and is the state’s ninth all-time winningest coach with 707 victories. “They’ve just come such a long way.

“What we’ve done the last three weeks has just been amazing. We’re not seeing anyone in the playoffs who’s better than what we saw in the regular season. We’re used to this kind of stuff. We’re used to playing good competition.” 

South could muster just one hit, a Ronald Williams single, off Lakeview starter Jacob Herbers through three innings.

Trailing 1-0, the Blue Devils broke through in the fourth, batting around and using five hits, an error, and a wild pitch to seize a 5-1 lead. 

Lakeview (32-6) responded in the next half inning, batting around and scoring three runs on four hits to draw to 5-4.

“The thing that you want, right after you get up like that, is to come out and shut them down, and that’s exactly what we didn’t do,” Griesbaum said. “It was kind of frustrating. But a good team keeps battling, and that’s exactly what we did.” 

Eaton came on for starter Douglas Graham with a runner on third base and no one out after the Spartans had pulled close. Eaton, a sophomore right-hander, got a lineout and a groundout, but then issued a walk and hit a batter to load the bases. He got a strikeout to end the inning.

James Fishback’s RBI double in the fifth inning extended South’s lead to 6-4. Lakeview threatened in the seventh, using an error, a single and a walk to load the bases. Eaton induced a game-ending flyout to end the drama. 

“I was a little nervous there, but I just knew I had to calm myself down and get through it,” said Eaton, who allowed two hits, walked two and struck out four over three innings. “I think we’re sort of like a Cinderella team. No one really expected us to be here. … It’s just been a great run for us.”

Graham earned the win, allowing nine hits while striking out four over four innings. 

Herbers surrendered nine hits in taking the loss. He struck out six and walked two. Just three of South’s six runs were earned.

Lakeview finished with 11 hits – Gavin Homer, Herbers and Russell Mathiak had two apiece – but stranded 11 runners, including eight in scoring position. Click for the full box score.

Bay City Western 6, Clarkston 1 

Brandon Wise had three hits and Scott Badour tossed a five-hitter for Western, a team that lost seven starters to graduation after winning the 2013 Division 1 championship.

“I am (surprised), but I don’t want to downplay my team,” said coach Tim McDonald, who is in his 22nd year at Western. “They have been rock-solid for six straight (tournament) games. It’s going to take a really good team to beat us, because we don’t beat ourselves. 

“In high school baseball and in probably any high school sport, if you don’t beat yourselves then that’s half the battle. If you don’t walk people and you don’t make errors – its tough to put two, three hits together at any level, and that’s what we’re making teams do.”

The Warriors graduated 10 players total off last year’s team, which became just the second in school history to win an MHSAA championship, along with the 1999 boys golf squad. 

Six players from that 2013 baseball squad have gone on to play college ball.

“We have two starters back from last year, and we start four sophomores,” McDonald said. “They’ve stopped surprising me. I think they don’t think of themselves as sophomores anymore. We don’t have any stars on this team. We don’t have that one guy that you’ve really got to be careful of. It’s a team in every aspect of the word. We play baseball the way I think baseball should be played. We move runners along, we take advantage of opportunities, and it’s fun to watch.” 

Western gave Badour all the support he would need with two runs in the second inning. The runners were driven home by Tyler Snover (sacrifice fly) and Jason Clark (two-out single), both sophomores.

Badour’s sacrifice fly and Snover’s RBI single in the fourth inning extended Western’s lead to 4-0, and the Warriors upped their advantage to 5-0 in the fifth when Carson Eby was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a throwing error. 

Clarkston got back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning from Nathan Witt and Mitch Smith to plate it’s only run.

Badour struck out four and walked two. The Wolves (20-13) stranded seven runners. 

“That’s Scott Badour,” McDonald said. “Not overpowering, but he’s a pitcher with a capital ‘P.’ He knows what he’s doing; he uses his defense. He stepped up huge for us.”

Witt allowed nine hits and walked one over 5 1/3 innings in taking the loss. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Pointe South’s Andrew Eaton threw three innings of relief to help his team return to the Division 1 Final. (Middle) Bay City Western’s Zach Schirmer scores in the second inning past Clarkston catcher Nick Morey.

Softball Standout Finds New Home in Addison Baseball Lineup

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)