First-Time Finalists Ride Pitching Power

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 12, 2015

EAST LANSING – The winning pitchers in the Division 4 Semifinals went all seven innings and combined to give up just three hits on Friday at McLane Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.

A stoic Devin Comes gave up a single to the first batter, and that was all as the sophomore struck out six and walked one in leading Muskegon Catholic Central to a 4-1 victory over first-time semifinalist Ubly.

MCC (38-1-1) will play Centreville (29-1) for the title Saturday at 5 p.m. Both teams are in the Final for the first time.

Michael Kool tossed a two-hitter and struck out 10 as Centreville defeated Rudyard 2-1 in the other Semifinal.

Comes pitched sparingly as a freshman, but knew his role would increase this season. He’s 10-1 and one of a handful of quality pitchers on coach Steve Schuitema’s staff.

“We had talked,” Schuitema said. “If he threw strikes, we’d be OK. We could have played better defense. Zach Huston made some real good plays at second.

“(Comes) is so unflappable. He doesn’t get that from me. I’m a nervous wreck.”

MCC committed four errors, and even those mistakes couldn’t rattle Comes. Ubly scored its run in the fourth inning on a walk, an error and a ground out by Evan Block.

By that time, MCC had built a 4-0 lead, scoring twice in the first inning and two more runs in the third.

“That 2-0 lead relieves a lot of stress,” Comes said. “I still have to do my job.

“I’ve never been in this situation before. We have a bunch of guys who can throw. I just did my normal routine (to prepare). I just try to stay calm and throw first-pitch strikes.”

Nichols Holt’s two-run single gave the Crusaders a 2-0 lead in the first. Jacob Holt had an RBI ground out in the third inning and the fourth run scored on an error.

Zachary Winzer had three of MCC seven hits. Anthony Woodard had two hits and a walk.

Jeffrey Wright pitched well for Ubly (22-8), but didn’t receive the run support.

“Every coach dreams of playing in a championship game,” Ubly coach Jim Becker said. “We were excited, but we’re also down we weren’t able to get there. We overachieved. I expected us to be .500. All along all we wanted was to win a district.”

Click for the box score.

Centreville 2, Rudyard 1

Kool, a junior right-hander, pitched a no-hitter in the Quarterfinal on Tuesday, 3-0 victory over Climax-Scotts. He retired the first 13 batters on Friday before Owen Mills singled.

Kool struck out 10 and walked two, both in the sixth inning, when Rudyard touched him for a run.

Despite his impressive performance, Kool remained humble.

“I just play baseball,” he said. “It’s not me. It’s the team. I felt good. This is the highlight of my career.

“We’re still making history for Centreville. We’re in the state final.”

Centreville took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Kool scored on a throwing error. Nick Weber scored what turned out to be the winning run when Jalen Brown singled him home with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Rudyard (30-5) set a school record for victories in a season and was making its third MHSAA Semifinal appearance.

The Bulldogs scored in the top of the sixth inning after Kool walked the first two batters. A sacrifice bunt moved both up, and James Rosebrock singled home Cody Coffey. But Kool struck out the last two batters and retired the side in order in the seventh.

When asked if he thought about removing his ace during the tense sixth, coach Mike Webster said, “I went with my instincts and left him in.”

Webster will turn 27 on Saturday, and he said, “The kids gave me the best birthday of my life.”

Travis Myers went the distance and took the loss for Rudyard. This was coach Ron VanSloten’s last game, as he will retire after 22 seasons to spend more time with his family. He built a career record of 444-186-4. 

“We had a couple of key at bats today,” he said. “(Kool) is a good dude. Except for that one inning, he comes right at you.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Devin Comes prepares to deliver a pitch during Friday’s Division 4 Semifinal win. (Middle) A Centreville player crosses the plate for one of his team’s two runs.

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for

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.)