Flashback 1982: Diamond Finals Dominated by 1-Run Title Deciders

By Ron Pesch
MHSAA historian

June 6, 2022

Heavy downpours earlier in the week, combined with all-night rain on Friday, meant the title games in both baseball and softball were postponed from Saturday, June 19 to the following Monday.


Those baseball fans making the trip to Central Michigan University’s Alumni Field for the 1982 MHSAA Baseball Finals saw five of the Detroit Free Press’ 11-member Dream team – Rick Leppien of Midland, Bill Hanis from Plymouth Canton, Paul Ouillette from Bay City Handy, Frank Kendall of Mesick and Ron Fillmore from Sanford Meridian (a rare all-stater in three sports).

Runner-up in Class D in 1981, Mesick brought home a state title in ’82, posting a 30-0-1 record, capped by a thrilling – and for some, controversial – 3-2 win over Colon before an opening game crowd of 500.

Colon grabbed a 2-1 advantage in the third inning and had multiple opportunities to up its lead, loading the bases in both the fourth and again in the top of the sixth innings. But the Magi were unable to capitalize. In the bottom of the sixth with one out, Mesick’s Monty Geiger ripped an opposite-field double within inches of the rightfield foul line, scoring Chuck Hockey to knot the game at 2-2, setting the stage for a thrilling finish.

Mesick baseballIn the seventh, with Mesick runners at second and third and nobody out, Colon coach Mike Sowles ordered an intentional walk to Bulldogs star Frank Kendall. With the bases loaded, a grounder to short was tossed to home plate for the inning’s first out. Another near-identical shot, again to the shortstop, followed. The throw to the plate was accurate and beat the sliding runner, Ken LeFountain. However, the umpire ruled the catcher had been pulled off the plate by the throw, allowing Mesick to score the game winner.

“Our clutch hitting didn’t come through for the first time in a long time,” said Sowles to the Battle Creek Enquirer. His team had stranded 13 runners on the morning. “We just didn’t get the key hits to put them away.”

"Most observers in the press box located directly behind home plate, thought the umpire was right,” stated Steve Morse, staff writer at the Enquirer, who had covered the game.

While Sowles disagreed with the game-ending call, he added, “You’ve got to give credit to Mesick. They pitched out of those jams time and time again.”

Also named all-state in football and basketball, Sanford Meridian’s Ron Fillmore doubled off the centerfield fence, then scored what proved to be the winning run in the fifth inning following a two-out single by catcher Brian Garner as the Mustangs downed Buchanan 6-4 to earn the Class C baseball crown. It was the second consecutive runner-up finish for the Bucks, who finished the year at 25-6.

Beaten only once, at a tournament during the regular season by eventual Class A champion Midland, Sanford Meridian (29-1) banged out 13 hits and opened the scoring in the top of the first when Dave Ehlert scored on a double steal. The Mustangs then added runs in the second, and a pair in the third inning, for a 4-1 lead.

Buchanan knotted the game in the fourth inning.

Fillmore, who was headed back to Central Michigan University in the fall on a football scholarship, tripled, scored twice, and added an RBI on the day. Garner drove in three runs on a double and a pair of singles, while Jim Bailey and Kirk Shauger also added two singles. The Mustangs had added an insurance run in the sixth following a Dennis Ladlow sacrifice fly.

“Fillmore concluded an outstanding athletic career at Sanford-Meridian with his performance in the title contest,” wrote Jack Walkden in the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium. “Three times he bailed starter Dave Walter (12-0) out of tight jams. And the senior righthander closed out the game with a flourish striking out Buchanan’s 1-2-3 batters. He worked 2 2/3 innings in all, yielding no runs, no hits, striking out five, and walking just two.”

“Sanford-Meridian got some other good news Monday,” added Walkden. “The baseball program had been dropped for 1983 as part of budget cuts at the school.

“‘But it’s about 80 percent sure that it will be reinstated through outside funding,’ Sanford-Meridian Athletic Director Steve Digsby said.”

Bob Podschline drove home the tying run with a two-run double in the Class B contest, scored the winning run on a Carl Novick two-run double in the third inning, then racked up 10 strikeouts as Southgate Aquinas topped Bay City Handy, 6-2. The Raiders southpaw allowed just two hits across six innings. Novak added a fifth-inning home run, and Gary Lizanich tossed a hitless seventh to seal the win. Aquinas ended the season with a 22-10 mark, while Handy closed out the year 30-9.

In the day’s final contest, Midland’s Chemics downed Plymouth Canton, 5-4, in Class A. Rick Leppien smacked a 385-foot two-run homer over the left-centerfield fence in the top of the second inning to open the scoring. It was his eighth round-tripper of the year. He scored again on a double steal to up the score to 3-0 in the fourth.

“The Chemics increased their lead to 5-0 with two more runs in the top of the fifth,” stated Don Winger in the Midland Daily News. “Bryan Kuehne doubled, moved to third on a ground out by Chris Carter, and scored when (Canton) shortstop Don Dombey threw wild to first on Mark Sayad’s grounder. Sayad raced all the way to third on the play and pitcher (Greg) Money promptly doubled him home.”

Victory, however, would not come easy.

Leppien, the ace of the Midland pitching staff with a 16-1 record, was limited to a relief role in the championship contest because of a “30 outs rule in effect for the semifinal and final games.” Hence, Midland coach Frank Altimore was forced into juggling pitching duties across four members of the staff.

A series of walks, a passed ball, and a timely single – Canton’s lone hit on the day – cut the margin to 5-3 in the fifth inning. Additional issues in the sixth led to another run, setting the stage for an exciting finish.

Sanford Meridian baseballIn the bottom of the seventh, Altimore moved pitchers in and out like chess pieces. The Chiefs had the winning run at third base when Money returned to the mound for the fourth time, and “blew a 3-2 pitch” past Canton’s batter to end the game for the final out.

“It was dark, and I told them to just come in with heat. They did, and we won. It was a great ballgame,” said Altimore.

Moments later, “a heavy downpour inundated the playing field,” concluded Winger. “But, by that time the Chemics were celebrating their second state title in 10 years, and they were oblivious to the raindrops.”

Money, the starter, was credited with both the win and the save for Midland, which finished with a 35-5 mark. Canton ended the season at 25-5.

“They were on a vision quest,” their coach would recall in 2007 when the team was honored with induction into the Midland County Sports Hall of Fame.  “We had an incredibly talented team in 1981, senior-loaded. They went to the regional finals, where they got beat by a very poor team from Jackson with a great pitcher.” 

In total, over 3,100 attended Monday’s baseball games.


Three one-run games kept softball fans on the edge of their seats at Lansing’s Ranney Park.

Paula DeFord and Jean Sullivan each drove in three runs as Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard rolled over Gaylord St. Mary, 9-2, for the Class D title. Senior Ann O’Sullivan held St. Mary to just two hits in the day’s opening game. Rain also had pushed the Softball Finals to Monday.

The Irish, focused on aggressive baserunning, stole 10 bases and took advantage of six errors by the young Gaylord squad. Up 2-0 after the first, and 4-2 after three innings, Gabriel Richard pushed across four more runs in the fourth. The Irish ended the campaign with a 30-6 mark, with O’Sullivan finishing her senior year with 16 wins against four defeats.

“New Lothrop’s first batter of the game, Kelly Fisher, crossed the plate with the game’s only score,” stated Bill Khan of the Flint Journal in his article covering the Hornets’ 1-0 win over Pontiac Catholic in the Class C Final. According to Khan, the “lone run couldn’t have been planned much better.

“Fisher led off the Hornets’ half of the first inning with a walk, then proceeded to swipe her 71st base of the season.”

The thefts marked the top season total recorded in Michigan, as well as the nation, at the time.

Fisher advanced to third on a groundout. A squeeze that went back to the mound initially held her at third, but the toss by the pitcher to first for the out opened an opportunity.

“… Fisher came streaking down the line and made a headfirst slide into home,” just under the tag of the relay to the plate, scoring the game’s only run.

Pontiac Catholic junior Vicki Morrow, who would later earn the Big Ten Softball Player of the Year honor at the University of Michigan in 1987 and was later selected to the Big Ten All-Decade Team, struck out five and allowed only four hits, while New Lothrop pitcher Sandy Deneen limited Pontiac’s offense to just five scattered hits and two walks across seven innings. New Lothrop ended the year with a 29-4 record, while the Titans finished at 30-3.

In Class B, Chelsea topped West Branch Ogemaw Heights, 3-2 in 13 innings. Senior Amy Unterbrink allowed just four hits on the day. Lisa Beeman scored the game winner following a single by Amy Hume.

Royal Oak Kimball softballOgemaw Heights held a 2-0 lead entering the seventh, but a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning by the Bulldogs pushed the game to extra innings. It was the third straight “cliffhanger” for Chelsea, which ended the year with an impressive 33-2 record – tops in school history.

“In the regional final, they scored four runs with two outs in the seventh inning to trip Dearborn Divine Child, 4-2,” according to Rob Allstetter of the Ann Arbor News, “and they needed an Unterbrink double in the bottom of the eighth inning to turn back Richmond in the semifinals, 4-3.”

Royal Oak Kimball topped Grandville 1-0 in a Class A showdown featuring two of the state’s top pitchers, Kimball senior Julie Bishop and Grandville junior Kathy VanDerMolen.

A leadoff single in the seventh was the only hit allowed by Bishop, who upped her career mark to 46-5 with the win.

Kimball’s Lisa Bean, who had walked earlier in the inning, scored the game’s only run in the third when Mary Pike smashed a two-out double over the left fielder’s head. It was one of only two hits allowed by VanDerMolen.

Bean, Pike, and VanDerMolen, Chelsea’s Unterbrink, the Ogemaw Heights battery of pitcher Pam Czach and catcher Sue Pauley, Morrow and Pontiac Catholic teammates Mary Hashinger and Bridget Syron, Gabriel Richard’s O’Sullivan, her catcher Martha Rogers, and infielder Alicia Seegert, as well as Gaylord St. Mary junior Kristin Fosdick all were among postseason all-state first-team selections named by the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association in mid-July.

Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at [email protected] with ideas for historical articles.

PHOTOS (Top) New Lothrop’s softball team celebrated the 1982 Class C championship with a 1-0 win over Pontiac Catholic. (2) Mesick won the Class D baseball title that spring. (3) Sanford Meridian’s Ron Fillmore would go on to play football at Central Michigan. (4) Kimball’s Lisa Bean would score the only run of the 1982 Class A Final. (Photos gathered by Ron Pesch. CMU football photo courtesy of the CMU Athletics Organizational Records.)

Savoring Every Moment, Meyers Helping North Muskegon Extend Memorable Run

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

May 29, 2024

Ben Meyers is cherishing every second of his senior baseball season – because he has learned, on several occasions, how quickly everything can be taken away.

West MichiganMeyers is the leader of Division 3 top-ranked North Muskegon, which already has eclipsed the 30-win plateau heading into this weekend’s District tournament.

“I think we’re in a really good spot,” said Meyers after a rare loss, 3-1, on May 23 against neighboring rival Muskegon Reeths-Puffer.

“We are playing some good teams before Districts to help get us ready. Everyone is trying to get ready and get focused to make a run.”

Meyers, who splits time between the critical positions of catcher and shortstop, is either first or second on the team in almost every statistical category – notably with a .425 batting average, 48 hits, 40 RBIs, 49 runs and a sparkling .980 fielding percentage.

His leadership skills are even more important as one of just four seniors for the young Norsemen, who start three juniors and four sophomores.

North Muskegon, which is 30-5 and 12-0 against West Michigan Conference opponents (NM has won 35 consecutive WMC games), opens District play against Kent City on Saturday at Montague.

Meyers was in a similar leadership role for the North Muskegon football team this fall, before breaking his fibula on the second play from scrimmage during the third game of the season against Mason County Central.

Meyers worked tirelessly, and his team kept winning, giving him the chance to get back on the field for the Division 7 Regional Final against Pewamo-Westphalia, where he started on defense and made a slew of tackles and even recovered a fumble – before the unthinkable happened in the third quarter.

The outside linebacker bit on a play-action pass and when he planted his foot, he heard a familiar pop from the same leg and knew immediately his football comeback was over.

North Muskegon won a thriller over P-W that day, but Meyers was sidelined and unable to help his team the following week as its playoff run ended with a 32-21 loss to Menominee in the Division 7 Semifinals.

Meyers, playing shortstop, throws to first base. “Right when that second injury happened, I knew that basketball was done, too, but I was determined to get healthy and make the most of baseball season,” explained Meyers, whose junior brother, Charlie Meyers, is also a standout three-sport athlete. “It’s made me extra focused, for sure. I know I can’t take a single game or a single play for granted.”

Meyers missed his entire senior basketball season – another memorable campaign as NM followed up an undefeated football regular season with a 20-0 basketball regular season, before falling to P-W in a Division 3 Regional Semifinal.

Now healthy, Meyers – who has committed to play baseball at Davenport University in Grand Rapids – would love to cap off an already record-breaking year for North Muskegon sports with a run to the Baseball Finals at Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium. NM advanced to the Regional Finals last spring before losing to Lansing Catholic.

Garret Moyer, in his third year as North Muskegon’s head coach, normally pencils Meyers into the third spot in the batting order, but has at times slotted him first or second because of his versatility.

“As good of a player as Ben is, he is an even better teammate,” said Moyer, who is assisted by Collin Houseman and Ryan Mieler. “He is team-first in everything he does. Everybody in our program looks up to him.”

Meyers is especially adept at handling NM’s deep pitching staff. The Norse have a pair of aces in senior Ryan Delora (committed to Lansing Community College) and sophomore Logan Slimko, but also a slew of capable arms behind them – notably Jaxon Bean, Ace Anderson and Kylan Nielsen.

While Meyers is moving up the all-time state rankings in career hits and RBIs, perhaps his most impressive skill is stealing bases. Meyers has a team-high 34 stolen bases this season and more than 100 for his career – an unheard-of number for a catcher.

“I’m not that fast, but my secret is knowing how to get a good jump,” said Meyers, who noted that playing catcher helps him with that.

The son of Dan Meyers and Katie Brewer, he also finds time to work as a field technician at Trace Analytical and carries a 3.97 GPA. He plans to major in supply chain management at Davenport.

North Muskegon’s outstanding season is being played out against the backdrop of a small-town turf war between the school’s soccer and baseball programs. NM’s James B. Johnson Baseball Field (affectionately known as “The Shipyard”) was razed this offseason in favor of new soccer fields, with final plans for a new baseball stadium still in the works.

In the meantime, the Norsemen have played all of their 35 games on the road, utilizing Muskegon Community College, historic Marsh Field, Fruitland Field, Softball World and other locations for games and practices.

Meyers acknowledges that the loss of their home field was a big issue for much of the season but, at this point, the team is focused on other things – namely, having fun playing as many games as possible together.

And he said the team is now using the lack of a home field as a mental motivator.

“We’ve been driving all over for practices and games for a couple of months now,” said Meyers. “We’re used to it. I mean, what team is more ready for the state tournament and all of the travel than us?”

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) North Muskegon’s Ben Meyers talks with one of his coaches while standing on third base. (Middle) Meyers, playing shortstop, throws to first base. (Photos courtesy of the Local Sports Journal.)