D3 Contenders Hold On for 1-run Wins

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 16, 2017

EAST LANSING – It looked like a mismatch. Madison Heights Bishop Foley, an annual powerhouse with plenty of pitching that had breezed through the tournament, against a sub-.500 team with little past tournament success.

It was anything but. Caro put a scare into the Ventures, but Bishop Foley held on for a 3-2 victory in a Division 3 Semifinal at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium on Friday.

Bishop Foley (24-12) will play top-ranked Traverse City St. Francis for the title at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

St. Francis (38-3) advanced to its first Final thanks to some fine pitching and Cooper Peterson’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning that pushed across the winning run in a 3-2 victory over Schoolcraft.  

Bishop Foley, ranked No. 7 heading into this postseason and Division 3 champ from 2011-13, is a member of the highly competitive Detroit Catholic League, and the Ventures weren’t expected to be tested by a team that started 0-7 and had to adjust to a coaching change after the slow start.

Ethan Hoffman went the distance for the victory as he struck out 11 and surrendered two hits, one walk and one earned run.

The Ventures scored runs in the first, third and fifth innings off Deven Hodder. Although they didn’t have many hard-hit balls, the Ventures appeared to be in good shape going into the top of the sixth inning.

But Caro’s Dylan Brown led off with a triple and scored on Conner Langenburg’s sacrifice bunt. Langenburg reached base on an error and later scored on a failed pickoff attempt. The Tigers had the tying run on first when Steven Strachan III was hit by a pitch, but the inning ended on a failed stolen base attempt.

Hoffman then set the side down in order in the seventh inning, sending the Ventures to their fifth MHSAA Final.

“I came in and did my routine,” Hoffman said. “Everything was working. I established my fastball early. That sixth was pretty nerve-racking. That seventh showed I could come back from that.”

Bishop Foley made a couple of base-running miscues as well. Evan Finegan knocked in the Ventures’ first run with a single but Justin Campbell, who had drawn a walk one batter earlier, was picked off of second to end the inning.

A Campbell single scored Finegan for Bishop Foley’s third run in the fifth inning, but a pickoff ended that rally as well.

Second-year Bishop Foley coach Greg Fettes is happy to be in the Final, but he wasn’t pleased with the overall play of his team.

“I told my guys that the only team that’s going to beat us in this tournament is ourselves,” Fettes said. “You almost saw that in the sixth. We haven’t done that all year. We looked like a Little League team.”

Fettes wasn’t pleased with his players’ approach at the plate either. Bishop Foley had scored 36 runs over its last three games entering Friday.

“That’s what we do, swing, swing, swing,” he said. “Look at our playoff wins. I’ll have them ready to go (on Saturday).”

Caro (15-22) outplayed Bishop Foley defensively. Shortstop Mason Campbell made a leaping catch to rob Finegan of a hit to start the sixth and Strachan, the first baseman, made an over-the-shoulder catch going down the foul line to retire the next batter.

Caro coach Victor Gomez said it was a smooth transition for him when he took over the program. He was an assistant for two seasons and was familiar with the players.

“We just had to let the kids know we believed in them,” he said. “I watched them grow up. I saw they had the skill set.”

Click for the full box score.

Traverse City St. Francis 3, Schoolcraft 2

Joe Muzljakovich pitched the first 6 2/3 innings for St. Francis and kept his team in the game by getting out of bases loaded situation in the fifth. He was removed with the bases loaded in the seventh, and Conner Sweet came on in relief and threw one pitch to get out of that jam.

Gabe Callery, the leadoff hitter, led off the eighth for St. Francis with a walk and ended up at third base after a failed pick-off and sacrifice. Junior Cooper Peterson came up to bad and did what coach Tom Passinault told him to do.

“He told me just to get a piece of the ball,” Peterson said. “He said get it to the outfield. I just kind of poked it. (Darren Kehoe) threw me a curve and I was a little out front.”

Ricky Clark batted in Schoolcraft’s first run in the first inning with a ground out that scored Nolan Anspaugh, who had tripled. Anspaugh also scored in the third on a sacrifice fly after reaching base on a double.

Blake Bales pitched well for No. 5 Schoolcraft (25-11), as he went 6 2/3 innings, allowed three hits and struck out eight.

Sweet picked up the victory for the Gladiators, allowing a walk and one base hit. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bishop Foley's Ethan Hoffman delivers a pitch during the first Division 3 Semifinal on Friday. (Middle) St. Francis' Artie Dutmers slides into home for one of his team's three runs. 

No Runs, No Hits: East Jordan Aces Toss 4 Straight Shutouts, 3 Straight No-Hitters

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

May 17, 2024

Playing shortstop this year for East Jordan High School admittedly has become rather boring at times.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThere hasn’t been a whole lot of action at what’s usually the busiest spot in the infield — no matter who is playing it.

Junior Eli Burns knows that better than anyone. He is the Red Devils’ regular shortstop. He also pitches.

Ryder Malpass knows what it’s like to play short this season as well – he’s normally in the spot when Burns is on the mound.

But he also has a feel for how little the shortstop does regularly for the Division 4 No. 16 Red Devils from his usual spot at catcher – receiving behind the plate for a pitching staff averaging almost two strikeouts per inning. 

Just recently, East Jordan put together three straight no-hitters and four straight shutouts.

“It’s good,” Burns said of playing short. “When you have confidence with your pitchers you don’t have to worry about the ball being hit to you that much.”

Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. Malpass, a junior, started the shoutout string himself with a 4-0 win over Bellaire last week, when he earned the win throwing 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts while going 2 for 3 at the plate with a double and RBI. Junior Korbyn Russell closed out the game.

Then Burns started the no-hitter run in the second game that night with Bellaire, a 6-0 Red Devils win. Burns had 10 strikeouts and just a single walk allowed. He also tripled in the game.

This week the no-hitter string continued with 1-0 and 2-0 wins over Boyne City. Russell and senior Lucas Stone threw the Red Devils’ third and fourth no-hitters of the season.

Stone threw a perfect game across six innings. He struck out 12 batters on just 70 pitches and also went 2 for 3 with an RBI against the Ramblers. Russell earned the 1-0 win over Boyne City with 5 1/3 no-hit innings behind 11 strikeouts and with just a lone walk allowed. Stone followed Russell to pick up the save for the Red Devils, now 13-9-1 overall on the season and 6-4 in Lake Michigan Conference play.  

Russell is 6-2 on the season with two saves. Going into Thursday’s game with Charlevoix, he had struck out 92 batters over 42 innings while compiling a 0.86 ERA. Stone is 5-2. Before suffering his second loss of the season to the Rayders, his ERA was 1.17 and he had fanned 38 in 36 innings of work. Burns has racked up 17 strikeouts so far in just over 14 innings.

“It’s pretty special to be a part of something not many teams can do,” Russell said. “We have a special group of pitchers to get the job done.”

Stone credits the Red Devils’ defensive play for the pitching staff’s success.

“Our defense has helped the pitching a lot because they don’t make a lot of errors,” Stone said.  “It makes it a lot easier when you know they are going to make plays behind you.”

Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch.East Jordan came into this week beginning to approach the state records for consecutive shutout innings and games. That ended yesterday in twin bill losses to Division 3 No. 11 Charlevoix. But the Red Devils still can chase the national record of nine no-hit games in a season. (No official record is kept for no-hitters by a Michigan high school team in a season.)

There is also no known record of any East Jordan team racking up three no-hitter wins in a row.

“I don’t think there’s been any stretch with three no-hitters in a row, so that is pretty special,” noted East Jordan coach Adam Grybauskas. “We’re kind of picking up where things were last year and trying to build on last year’s success and make it even better this year.”

The Red Devils captured a Division 4 District championship in 2023 and then a 9-6 Regional Semifinal win over Gaylord St. Mary. The season came to an end in the Regional Final with a 2-0 loss to Painsdale Jeffers.

Russel, Stones and Burns were on the pitching staff last year as East Jordan made that run. The Red Devils will host the District tournament this year as familiar opponents Bellaire, Central Lake and Ellsworth will vie to stop East Jordan’s attempt at repeating as champion. The doubleheader loss to undefeated Charlevoix ended the Red Devils’ hopes of sharing the LMC title with the Rayders.

“I think we’ve played a little bit better competition this year,’ Grybauskas said.  “Our focus this year is taking each doubleheader at a time, and try to get better each week.

“It’s really been game by game and week to week,” he continued. “You’re always looking to do better than last year so obviously that will be something we’ll talk about in the future.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) East Jordan’s Lucas Stone winds up during a game. (Middle) Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. (Below) Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch. (Photos courtesy of the East Jordan athletic department.)