D4 Baseball: Decatur Strikes Late

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

June 15, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Decatur baseball coach Ben Botti knew from experience his team likely would need to “dodge a bullet” to have a chance to win this season’s MHSAA Division 4 championship.

That moment came in Friday’s Semifinal against Muskegon Catholic Central. And senior shortstop Theo Rufo responded by firing a shot of his own.

The No. 2-ranked Raiders trailed by a run going into the top of the seventh inning when Rufo hit a drive nearly to the wall in left-centerfield. He arrived at third base for a triple, but the throw behind him sailed into MCC’s dugout, allowing Rufo to score the go-ahead run.

And that’s all Decatur ace J.T. Kawaski needed to finish a 3-2 win and get Decatur to its first MHSAA championship game since winning back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.

“Our coach said the two times he did win state, they had to dodge a bullet. We knew if we wanted to make it that far, we haven’t dodged a bullet yet,” Rufo said. “We knew coming in we had it (in us) because we’ve come back a couple times this season. So we weren’t down on ourselves. We knew we could come back.”

Decatur (35-6) will face top-ranked Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

The Raiders had cruised through the playoffs until Friday, winning the last three games by a combined score of 23-5. But MCC put a run up in both the second and third innings, and led 2-1 heading into Decatur’s final at bats.

Freshman Joby Kawaski opened the seventh with a walk, then scored when Rufo turned on a fastball on the inner half of the plate. J.T. Kawaski got MCC 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning.

“We thought we had it in the bag after that,” Rufo said of his run. “We knew we could shut it down with J.T. our ace on the mound.”

Junior outfielder T.J. Stambeck also had two hits and an RBI for Decatur, and Kawaski gave up only two hits and struck out four.

MCC freshman Nick Holt also threw a complete game, striking out six and giving up just one earned run. He had one of two hits for the Crusaders (26-9). Click for a full box score.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 15, Rudyard 3

The reigning champion University Liggett (25-3) scored 10 runs in the third inning to break open a game that lasted only five innings.

Junior Connor Fanton was one of four Knights to drive in at least two runs, and he also scored twice and had two hits while throwing all five innings on the mound and striking out nine. Junior outfielder Kevin Allen hit a three-run homer during the big rally.

Rudyard (20-17) got one hit each from five batters and RBI from junior first baseman Justin Kruger and senior third baseman Kyle Roe. Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Decatur senior J.T. Kawaski drives a ball during Friday's Semifinal win over Muskegon Catholic Central. (Middle) University Liggett junior Connor Fannon pitched all five innings and got the win over Rudyard in his team's Semifinal.

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.)