Finals Preview: Making the Numbers Add Up

June 13, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A few numbers are worth noting heading into MHSAA Baseball Finals weekend at Battle Creek's Bailey Park.

Seven of the 16 teams taking the field will be playing for their first championships. Not one of the Division 2 Semifinalists has a top-10 number attached to it; all four contenders entered the postseason unranked. 

But there are plenty of coaches this weekend who know about winning; eight have led teams to at least 200 wins, and two coaches with at least 500 victories are attempting to guide their clubs to first MHSAA titles.

Below is this weekend's schedule, followed by a look at each team that will be playing.

Semifinals - Friday

Division 1
Bay City Western (40-2) vs. Sterling Heights Stevenson (28-8) - CO Brown - 11 a.m.
Birmingham Brother Rice (31-8-1) vs. Howell (33-7) - Nichols Field - 10 a.m.

Division 2
Grand Rapids Christian (17-15) vs. Remus Chippewa Hills (27-7) - Nichols Field - 1 p.m.
Richmond (33-4) vs. Milan (26-12) - Morrison Field - Noon

Division 3
Grandville Calvin Christian (23-3) vs. Whittemore-Prescott (24-5) - Morrison Field - 3 p.m.
Madison Heights Bishop Foley (33-2-1) vs. Bridgman (26-5-1) - CO Brown - 2 p.m.

Division 4
Beal City (34-2) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (28-7) - CO Brown - 5 p.m.
New Lothrop (25-5) vs. Grosse Pte. Woods U. Liggett (29-4) - Nichols Field - 4 p.m.

Finals - Saturday

Division 1: 9:30 a.m.
Division 2: 12:30 p.m.
Division 3: 3:30 p.m.
Division 4: 6:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $7 per round or $15 for an all-tournament ticket that includes admission to baseball games. Radio broadcasts of all Semifinals can be heard online at All Finals will be streamed live online at, with radio broadcasts again available on the MHSAA Network website.

All statistics below are through at least the regular season, with most through teams' Regionals or Quarterfinals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)

Division 1

Record/rank: 40-2, No. 1
Coach: Tim McDonald, 21st season (562-198-7)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League North
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Connor Foley, sr. P/3B (7-0, 1.73 ERA pitching, .496, 57 R, 19 SB); Grant Miller, sr. 2B (.478, 52 R, 32 RBI); Grant Bridgewater, sr. C/3B (.416, 39 R, 38 RBI), Brett Adcock, sr. P/1B (11-0, 0.54 ERA, 119 K pitching, .361).
Outlook: The Warriors are making their third Semifinals appearance in eight seasons, this time with a lineup featuring seven seniors. Bay City Western has won 31 straight, including victories over No. 2 Brighton, No. 5 Howell and sweeps of Division 2 No. 1 Bay City John Glenn, No. 4 Mount Pleasant and No. 6 Bullock Creek. Seniors Briton Ott (7-0) and Grant Rosenbrock (6-1) also have ERAs under 1.50, and junior shortstop Seth Freed provides another big bat hitting .443.   

Record/rank: 31-8-1, No. 6
Coach: Bob Riker, 16th season (393-156)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League Central
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Dalton Greyerbiehl, sr. CF/P; Nick Plummer, soph. LF; Matt Ruppenthal, jr. IF/P; Randy Righter, jr. 1B/P; Sammy Stevens, jr. C. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: This is Brother Rice’s first trip to Bailey Park since its most recent championship run, but the Warriors are used to seeing tough competition playing in one of the state’s most competitive leagues. Brother Rice also owns a split against No. 5 Howell and a sweep of Division 3 No. 1 Madison Heights Bishop Foley, and beat No. 11 Lake Orion in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal.

Record/rank: 33-7, No. 5
Co-coaches: Jason Ladd and Mike Weatherly, second seasons (62-17)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Tyler Bradner, sr. P/CF (.416, 28 R, 51 RBI); Cody Wiggins, sr. LF (.362, 32 R, 28 RBI); Darren Ford, jr. RF/P (.404, 32 R, 23 RBI).
Outlook: Howell is back in the Semifinals for the second straight year, and also the second time ever. And the Highlanders should be prepared after running through a loaded schedule; they went 2-1 against No. 2 Brighton and No. 4 Sterling Heights Stevenson, fell to No. 1 Bay City Western but beat reigning Division 4 champion Decatur, and then defeated No. 8 Temperance Bedford in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal.

Record/rank: 28-8, No. 4
Coach: Joe Emanuele, 16th season (351-182)
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2005.
Players to watch: Zack McGuire, jr. P/OF (5-0, 1.22 ERA pitching, .444, 16 2B, 42 RBI); Brandon Hughes, jr. OF/P (.404, 39 R, 21 SB); Dean Emanuele, jr. 2B (.388, 14 SB, 26 R), Bobby Griffin, sr. C (.370, 12 2B, 20 RBI).
Outlook: After missing last season, Stevenson is back in the Semifinals for the second time in three years with a lineup featuring as many seniors (three) as sophomores. Stevenson owns a recent win over No. 5 Howell after two losses earlier, and beat No. 7 Macomb Dakota three times including in the Regional. Senior Johno Rodriguez (7-1) and junior Joe Wolf (6-2) combine with McGuire for an accomplished pitching staff.  

Division 2

Record/rank: 17-15, unranked
Coach: Brent Gates, sixth season (153-59)
League finish: Third in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2012, runner-up 2011 and 2005.
Players to watch: Alex VandeVusse, sr. 1B/P (.392, 22 R, 3-3 pitching); Joel Schipper, sr. SS (.384, 20 R, 19 RBI); Tyler Sigler, jr. OF (.356, 23 R, 17 SB); Austin Batka, jr. P/1B (4-5, 1.63 ERA, 88 K pitching).
Outlook: VandeVusse and Schipper were key cogs in last season’s championship team and have the Eagles back on an unexpected run after finishing the regular season 12-15. The Eagles did beat No. 2 Comstock Park 10-3 in the Regional Semifinal and also beat No. 4 Mount Pleasant just before the beginning of Districts.

Record/rank: 26-12, unranked
Coach: Adam Gilles, 12th season (266-122-3)
League finish: Third in Huron League
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Kyle Schrader, jr. P/IF; Thomas Lindeman, soph. P/SS. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Milan has won 10 straight and is back at Bailey Park for the first time since 2009. This postseason run has included three shutouts – including one against No. 10 New Boston Huron – as the Big Reds have beaten those six teams by a combined score of 18-5.

Record/rank: 27-7, unranked
Coach: Ben Wright, seventh season (182-64)
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association
Championship history: Class B champion 1983.
Players to watch: Jake Tarbell, sr. C/P (10-2, 2.07 ERA, 94 K pitching, .505, 31 R, 17 2B, 40 RBI); Devin Esch, sr. CF (.423, 26 R, 12 SB); Hunter Conley, soph. 2B (.403, 38 R, 27 SB); Ty Schafer, sr. SS/P (8-2, 2.62 ERA, 54 K pitching, .369, 25 R, 23 RBI.)
Outlook: Chippewa Hills has won six straight league, three straight District and two straight Regional championships. The Warriors were ranked No. 10 in Division 2 early this season, and have beaten two straight ranked opponents: No. 8 Cheboygan in the Regional Final and No. 4 Mount Pleasant in the Quarterfinal.

Record/rank: 33-4, unranked
Coach: Scott Evans, second season (58-16)
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Evan Kratt, soph. C/P (3-0, 1.58 ERA pitching, .478, 36 R, 38 RBI, 13 2B); Austin Harvey, jr. 3B (.439, 32 R, 16 SB); Ryan Boyd, jr. SS/P (2-0, 0.49 ERA pitching, .421, 39 R, 18 SB); Mitchell Ward, sr. P/1B (5-0, 1.54 ERA pitching, .408, 27 R, 26 RBI).  
Outlook: Richmond is riding a 17-game winning streak that has included a 6-1 win over No. 3 St. Clair in the Regional Semifinal. The Blue Devils have one of the deepest pitching staffs in Battle Creek this weekend, with seven throwers having won at least one game this season and the total staff ERA at 1.75. Junior Zach Leach and sophomore Dillon McInerney both have a team-high six wins on the mound.

Division 3

Record/rank: 26-5-1, No. 7
Coach: Justin Hahaj, first season (26-5-1)
League finish: First in Lakeland Conference
Championship history: Class D champion 1987, two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Brock Belanger, sr. 1B (.430, 27 R, 37 RBI); Matt Hendricks, jr. SS (.337, 37 R, 22 SB); Tyler Gnodtke, jr. P/OF (7-1, 1.86 ERA pitching); Brady Wasko, sr. P/2B (9-1, 0.49 ERA, 74 K pitching, .328, 26 R).
Outlook: Bridgman hopes to take the next step after finishing runner-up in 2011. Gnodtke made a brief appearance in that Final and is back as one of the best of a strong pitching staff. Bridgman has won its five postseason games by a combined score of 34-4, with a 5-2 win over No. 6 Homer in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal.

Record/rank: 23-3, unranked
Coach: Andrew Bishop, fourth season (90-27)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1996), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Nate VanRyn (.377, 25 R, 21 RBI); Jamie Bristol (6-1, 1.37 ERA pitching, .370); Cole Boender (5-0, 0.29 ERA pitching, .348); Josh DeYoung (9-0, 0.60 ERA, 82 K pitching, .333, 23 R, 22 RBI).
Outlook: Calvin Christian has won four league and three District titles under Bishop, and now is back in Battle Creek for the first time since 2002. The Squires eliminated No. 2 Lansing Catholic in the Regional and have won 17 of their last 18 games. Only three starters graduate, meaning Calvin Christian could be building for a run in 2014 as well.

Record/rank: 33-2-1, No. 1
Coach: Buster Sunde, fifth season (164-25-1)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League AA
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2012 and 2011, Class B runner-up 1990.
Players to watch: Michael Murley, jr. CF/P; Chad Gravlin, sr. 1B/P; Garrett Schilling, jr. P/SS; Nathaniel Grys, soph. LF. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Despite graduating an Major League draft pick in catcher Brett Sunde, Bishop Foley hasn’t missed a beat – even with only two seniors on this season’s team. Bishop Foley earned impressive wins against bigger schools including Detroit Catholic Central and Brother Rice and didn’t give up a run in the District tournament.

Record/rank: 24-5, unranked
Coach: Edward Mervyn, 34th season (566-385)
League finish: Second in Huron Shores Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Tyler Janish, sr. P (8-1, 0.86 ERA, 99 K pitching, .506, 61 R, 4 HR, 64 SB); Jens Gillings, jr. C (.424, 27 R, 31 RBI, 24 SB); Jordan Runyon, sr. 1B (.420, 34 RBI); Mike Arndt, soph. SS (.369, 39 R, 32 RBI, 41 SB).
Outlook: This is Whittemore-Prescott’s longest run ever and first trip to Bailey Park – and could be just the start of a two-year run with only three seniors in the lineup. The Cardinals have a supply of offense and scored at least 10 runs in 11 games this spring – with seven regulars stealing at least 10 bases and six driving in at least 20 runs. Junior Ivan Lauria joins Janish with an 8-1 pitching record.

Division 4

Record/rank: 34-2, No. 3
Coaches: Brad Antcliff, seventh season (225-39-3)
League finish: First in Highland Conference
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recent 2010).
Players to watch: Ryan Marshall, sr. SS/P (8-1, 1.50 ERA pitching; .383, 34 R, 32 RBI, 23 SB); Ty Rollin, jr. SS/P (9-1, 1.22 ERA pitching, .389, 48 R, 24 SB); Joe Rau, sr. LF (.369, 35 R, 21 RBI); Chase Rollin, fr. RF (.473).
Outlook: Beal City is in the Semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons and seeking its third championship after winning back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. The slate has been impressive this spring; the Aggies own wins over Division 2 Semifinalist Remus Chippewa Hills and Division 4 No. 5 Muskegon Catholic Central and No. 7 Decatur over the last eight games. The losses came to No. 1 University Liggett and Division 2 No. 6 Bullock Creek.

Record/rank: 29-4, No. 1
Coach: Dan Cimini, 10th season (275-55)
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2011), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Nathan Gaggin, sr. C/P (.507, 27 R, 6 HR, 50 RBI); Nicholas Azar, soph. SS (.416, 31 R, 6 HR, 39 RBI); Connor Fannon, sr. P/1B (10-1, 2.50 ERA, 79 K pitching, .409, 28 R, 43 RBI); Mark Evan Auk, sr. OF/P (.402, 36 R, 24 RBI).
Outlook: University Liggett was the runner-up last season and is playing for its third straight championship game appearance. The Knights are loaded with star power; Fannon was an all-stater as a sophomore and Gaggin, Azar and Auk were all-staters last season. Two of the last three postseason wins came against No. 10 Concord and No. 6 Royal Oak Shrine, and University Liggett also owns wins against No. 3 Beal City and Division 1 No. 6 Brother Rice.

Record/rank: 28-7, No. 12
Coach: Kris Herman, 10th season (202-157-4)
League finish: Fourth in Northwest Conference
Championship history: Class D runner-up 1984.
Players to watch: Austin Odziana, soph. 1B/P (.459, 26 R, 12 2B, 23 RBI, 4-1 pitching); Thomas Waning, jr. 2B/P (8-4, 1.49 ERA, 110 K pitching, .424, 11 2B, 39 R, 33 RBI, 24 SB); Travis Moore, fr. OF/P (.422, 25 R, 34 RBI); Trevor Apsey, jr. C (.411, 40 R, 33 RBI, 20 SB),
Outlook: Glen Lake lost three of its final four regular-season games, but caught fire in the playoffs to advance to the Semifinals for the first time since 2001. The Lakers beat Suttons Bay after splitting right before the start of the postseason and beat No. 11 Frankfort in the Regional Final after being swept earlier this spring. Freshman Zach Cooper starts in right field and also is 7-1 pitching.  

Record/rank: 25-5, unranked
Coach: Keith Villano, third season (80-18-2)
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Blue
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Taylor Quentin, fr. OF (.541, 15 2B, 46 RBI); Grant Steinborn, soph. 1B/P (9-0, 1.63 ERA pitching, .408, 33 RBI); Tyler Moore, sr. 2B/P (.400, 31 R); Kyle Chappelle, jr. 3B/P (.318, 22 RBI, 41 R).
Outlook: New Lothrop have built on last season’s Quarterfinal berth by returning to the Semifinals for the first time since 1998. The Hornets have outscored their postseason opponents by a combined 40-11. And the run is even more impressive considering the roster has more underclassmen (seven) than upperclassmen (six). Centerfielder Mitch Perizzolo hits .346 in joining with Moore as the team’s lone seniors.

PHOTO: Bay City Western senior Briton Ott fires a pitch during Tuesday's Division 1 Quarterfinal win over Rockford. (Click to see more at

Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 24, 2023

Kenna Bommarito remembers how many people were in East Lansing a year ago to support her and her Algonac softball teammates at the Division 3 Semifinals.

Bay & ThumbSo, she has an idea of how many people from the town would show up if both the softball and baseball teams were there this time around.

“I think everyone would be,” the junior pitcher said.

There’s a decent possibility that Bommarito’s theory could be tested. The Muskrats softball team is ranked No. 2 in Division 3, and Tuesday night clinched the first Blue Water Area Conference title in program history.

That came one night after the baseball team – ranked No. 1 in Division 3 – also won its first BWAC title. The BWAC was created in 2002, and Algonac was an original member.

“It’s amazing – this town loves it,” said senior baseball player Tyler Schultz. “We’ve got a small community, and everybody is tagging along. I remember last year, a couple of our final postseason games, that was the most people I’ve ever seen at a game. All of the sports here are starting to build up. We have athletes all around the school. I think as time goes on, I think each sport will get better and better.”

Bommarito’s imagined scenario nearly played out a year ago, as both teams made their deepest postseason run.

While the softball team was making its historic run to the Semifinal, the baseball team was making one of its own, advancing to the Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.

Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in.The baseball team’s movement toward this started with the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when the Muskrats won back-to-back District titles.

“We had a couple DI (college) players, and when you have those players come through, it generates excitement through the youth,” said Algonac baseball coach Scott Thaler, who took over the program in 2017. “It’s been a trickle-down effect from that initial first two years. That really set the bar. We’ve had some really good baseball players come through, and I have a great staff.”

Thaler had stressed back then that he wanted to build a program at Algonac and not have it be a flash in the pan. That certainly looks like it’s happening, and not just because his Muskrats are winning and sitting atop the state rankings.

Algonac – which has fewer than 500 students in the entire school – has junior varsity and freshman baseball teams. Thaler also said there are 25 eighth graders coming into the program next year.

“I think that when I was smaller in little league, we didn’t really have that where we went out on the field with the varsity players,” said junior pitcher Josh Kasner. “Now, that’s gotten a lot better. A lot of the smaller kids we see around town, they know who we are and about (the program).”

Of course, talent wasn’t enough to get there. Thaler needed to instill belief in his team in order to help the younger generation see what was possible.

“I was a (football assistant) coach under Scott Barnhart, and one of the things we preached to the kids back then is ‘To believe in the things you haven’t seen before,’” Thaler said. “That’s the mantra we brought to them last year, ‘Why not us?’ Just because it hasn’t happened before here doesn’t mean you can’t believe in that. We had to get them to believe.”

The Quarterfinal run provided proof beyond the belief for the Muskrats, and then the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association added to it all, naming Algonac the preseason No. 1 team in Division 3.

Luckily for Thaler, his team took it in stride.

The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield.“I mean, it was a great feeling, but part of me had some doubts,” Schultz said “We’ve got some younger kids on the team, and I thought that maybe they might look at that and might get complacent, but me and some of the other seniors have done a good job of keeping all of these guys looking forward. We’ve still got one goal, and that’s to finish (with a Finals title).”

While the softball team didn’t enter the season with a No. 1 ranking, the expectations were certainly there, as was a new target on its back.

But bigger than both was motivation following a walk-off loss to Millington in the Semifinal.

“I think it just shows us that in those big games with those types of teams, you can never say never,” said first-year softball coach Natalie Heim, who was an assistant on last year’s team. “You really have to bear down. That Millington team that beat us, they fought hard. But I definitely think it fuels us more to get back.”

The softball program’s rise may have seemed more sudden to those on the outside, but senior Ella Stephenson said it had been bubbling for a while.

“My sophomore year, we had some talent for sure,” she said. “We had a really good season, but not as good as junior and senior year. The class above me was really talented. But they kind of turned the program around in my eighth-grade year, and it kind of kept building from there.”

During Stephenson’s sophomore season, the Muskrats lost a tough District game against Richmond, which went on to win the Division 3 Finals title. Not only are the Blue Devils a common early postseason opponent for the Muskrats, they’re also a conference rival. As is Almont. And Croswell-Lexington. And … It’s a brutal conference.

The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo.So, much like the baseball team, even during the softball team’s historic 2022 season, winning the conference this spring proved to be tougher than making a deep postseason run.

That made Tuesday night’s sweep of North Branch to clinch the BWAC that much sweeter.

“Honestly, it’s a rush of just happiness,” Bommarito said. “We’re all so excited and just can’t believe we did it. We just played game-by-game today, and really took it one pitch, one out at a time.”

Not only has the BWAC prepared the Muskrats for the possibility of another deep postseason run, it helped keep them focused throughout the season.

“I think a lot of teams don’t have that luxury of facing the best competition during the season,” Heim said. “I think it keeps (the Muskrats) not looking too far ahead. We try to have that approach of one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. It helps with having goals that are a little tougher to achieve. Winning our league, it’s tough. It’s not an easy feat. Especially after last year’s success, it would have been easy to look ahead.”

Now, with league titles secured, both teams can focus on their ultimate goals and the postseason that is directly in front of them.

All with the hope that their similarities – on top of the league titles, both teams are 29-2 as of Wednesday, and both have a University of Michigan-bound player (Kasner and Stephenson) – continue through the third weekend of June with matching trips to East Lansing.

“That’d be unreal. That would be so cool,” Stephenson said. “We all have really good friendships on the baseball and softball teams. Our records are identical. We both won our conference. It’s just really cool. I’m really happy for their success, and ours, too.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Algonac pitcher Kenna Bommarito makes her move toward the plate during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal against Millington. (2) Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in. (3) The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield. (4) The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo. (Baseball photos and softball team photo courtesy of the Algonac athletic department.)