Foley, Richard to Meet Again in D3 Final

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 15, 2018

EAST LANSING – It’s not the way the winning team would like to finish a game.

But all the same, Madison Heights Bishop Foley did win, and the Ventures will play for a second consecutive Division 3 title.

Bishop Foley led its Semifinal against Gladstone 6-0, then 7-1 after six innings Friday when the game got tight. The Ventures hit three batters in the seventh, and the Braves brought the tying run to the plate.

But sophomore Braden Mussat got the final out on strikes, and Bishop Foley held on for a 7-5 victory to advance again at McLane Stadium on Michigan State’s campus.

Bishop Foley (19-17-1) will play Detroit Catholic League rival Riverview Gabriel Richard for the title at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Bishop Foley and Richard do not play in the same division of the league, and the teams met once this season, in a league crossover, that Richard won 8-2.

For Bishop Foley, the sixth inning Friday was nearly as tenuous as the seventh, as Gladstone loaded the bases with one out. Starter Ethan Hoffman struck out the next two batters to maintain a six-run cushion.

First-year Bishop Foley coach Tim McEvoy went to the mound in the sixth to reassure Hoffman that everything was all right.

“I told him that this was his game,” McEvoy said. “It was a bit of a jam. He’s been there before.”

Hoffman was wild, yet effective. He walked six but allowed just two hits. His wildness might have contributed to his effectiveness. He said his fastball is consistently in the high 80s, but he had more to offer on this day.

“My curveball was working really well,” he said. “I was trying to keep them off balance. I was wild, but I kept them off balance with my off-speed stuff. They hadn’t really squared up on me all day.”

Bishop Foley scored in each of the first four innings. A three-run third featured a two-run double by Kenneth Germain.

Gladstone (32-5) got on the board in the fifth on a walk, an error and a ground out.

An RBI single by Ben Alderson in the bottom of the sixth inning pushed Bishop Foley’s lead back to six runs, when the game nearly turned upside down.

In the seventh, Carson Shea had a one-out single and Cody Frappier was hit by a pitch. Both moved up on a wild pitch before Mussat retired the next Braves batter. Consecutive hit batsmen forced in a run, and a wild pitch brought in Gladstone’s third. Ben Kelly’s two-run single made it 7-5, and Mussat ended the drama with a strikeout.

“I trust Braden,” McEvoy said. “Even if it got to 7-6, I would trust him.”

Gladstone left nine runners on base, five during the last two innings. The Braves put the first two runners on in the third, but a double play ended that threat.

“We had our opportunities,” Gladstone coach Don Lauscher said. “We had bases loaded a couple of times. They certainly gave us some opportunities. We didn’t get the big hit when we needed it. Their pitcher (Hoffman) was throwing heat and was a little erratic.”

Germain and catcher Mason Minzey each had two RBI for Bishop Foley. Minzey had a double, and his sacrifice fly was hit to the warning track in left center.

Clay Cole took the loss for Gladstone.

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Bishop Foley jumps out to a 5-0 lead on this two-run double by Kenneth Germain.


Riverview Gabriel Richard 5, Schoolcraft 2

Trailing 2-0, Gabriel Richard (28-3) scored five runs on three hits in the sixth inning to advance.

The Eagles (22-12) took that 2-0 lead in the fifth inning on one hit, four walks and an error. Sophomore Cole Atkinson came on in relief of starter Frank Klamerus with the bases loaded and one out, and walked in the second run. He then got the last out on a ground ball to third.

“It was a close call on the walk, but I knew I had to throw strikes,” said Atkinson, who was called up from the junior varsity in late May. “I knew I had a good defense behind me. And I knew our offense would get going.

“I had to be a bulldog (when I came in). I just had to shut them down.”

Richard had four hits over the first five innings, but no base runner reached third base.

Kevin Tuttle started the Pioneers’ rally with a one-out single. The next two batters reached on errors before Klamerus unloaded with a two-run double that one-hopped off the left-field fence. After a walk, pinch hitter Hayden Flynn hit a two-run single.

“We always have confidence in ourselves,” Richard coach Mike Magier said. I knew we could come back. (Atkinson) came in and did his job.”

After that one walk, Atkinson retired the last seven batters he faced.

“Yeah, we played Bishop Foley before,” Klamerus said. “But this is much bigger than the Catholic League.”

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Frank Klamerus had a two-run double during a five-run sixth inning for Riverview Gabriel Richard

PHOTOS: (Top) Evan Ludwick slides into home to score for Bishop Foley on Friday. (Middle) Gabriel Richard’s Frank Klamerus (23) and Schoolcraft catcher Stephen Schultz watch a Klamerus drive.

Kingsley Standouts Big Hits on Diamond, as Friends to 4th-Hour Classmates

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 19, 2024

When Eli Graves or Gavyn Merchant takes a swing this spring for Kingsley, a special group of friends are not worried how they’ll connect with the ball.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThat group of friends and classmates — students in Joel Guy’s fourth-hour special education class — feel like the two senior standout athletes already hit a home run at school that day. It might even feel like a grand slam from Graves or perhaps a hole-in-one for Merchant.

And the Kingsley baseball and golf coaches feel similarly – and sentiment that may extend through the entire Kingsley community.

Merchant and Graves are playing their final baseball seasons with Stags. Merchant is dual-sporting, adding golf to his incredible athletic career.

Together, they led the Stags to Division 6 football championship in the fall despite battling through extensive injuries. Graves, the star running back, and Merchant, the outstanding quarterback, then fought through long, hard rehabilitations to get back and lead the Stags on the hardcourt and wrestling mats this winter.  

But before stepping up to the plate or the tee to compete for Kingsley on any given day this spring, the pair spend time in Guy’s class and share lunch with the Kingsley cognitively impaired (CI) students.

“You can’t say enough good things about these young men,” said Guy, who also is in his fourth year as the Kingsley golf coach. “I get teary-eyed talking about it – they just kind of took a hold of some of my students making contact at lunch and in the hallway.”

That contact began midway the football season. Graves and Merchant were joined by fellow golfer Ty Morgan and football teammate Skyler Workman.

Merchant (6) hands the ball off to Graves during the Division 6 championship win at Ford Field. A few more senior athletes have been a part of the adoption of Guy’s students intermittently as well. But Guy’s students can count on seeing Graves, Merchant, Morgan and Workman in the classroom each and every day and then at lunch. The time was made possible, Guy notes, because the athletes are ahead in their own academic pursuits or participants in the school’s Teacher Academy program.

How those seniors are contributing is rare for accomplished athletes in a high school setting, Guy is happy to point out.

“Gavin and Eli are state champions in football,” said Guy. “They are the stars of their winter sports basketball and wrestling, and you you think that being seniors with those kinds of credentials at lunch they would sit in a table with all their buddies and talk about their accomplishments.

“They sit with my special education students,” Guy continued. “They make my students feel like they’re the ‘in’ crowd, and I am so proud of them.”

Bruce Graves, father of Eli and coach of the Stags’ baseball team, recalls learning from Guy what that group of seniors was doing with their fourth hour. He wasn’t really surprised to hear from someone else what his senior leaders were doing.

“They wouldn’t tell anybody they were doing it,” the 22-year veteran coach said. “They don’t do it for a pat on the back – they just do it because they like being good guys.”

There are various reports of exactly how the athletes started getting involved with the special education students. But everyone in the school located 15 miles south of Traverse City seems happy they did.

Eli Graves, one of the Stags’ five pitchers, roams center field when he’s not on the mound. He is 1-0 as the Stags are off to a 9-0 start following a conference sweep of Kalkaska, 3-0, 15-0, on Thursday. The right-hander is slated to pitch this weekend and has hopes of the Stags finishing the year with a conference baseball title and a deep postseason run.

Graves and Merchant have raised money all year to get birthday and Christmas gifts for their classmates in Guy’s room. They’ve become particularly close to a couple of his students.

“They don’t really see us as helpers or anything like that — they see us more as friends,” said Graves, now playing his third year on the varsity baseball squad.  “We go into the special ed room, and basically just help the students with whatever work they are doing.”

Merchant putts during Thursday’s golf opener.After recovering from football injuries, Graves averaged more than 15 points per game this basketball season and earned all-conference. Merchant also recovered from postseason surgeries and got back on the mat to place fourth at 132 pounds in Division 3 and became an all-state wrestler for the fourth time.  

The pair’s in-season football injuries were not known to many. They wanted to compete for the state title and tend to the injuries later. Graves rushed for almost 2,000 yards, tying and breaking some of his brother Owen’s school records along the way. He also had 20 tackles, two interceptions and four touchdowns on defense during the 2023 campaign.

Graves sprained a shoulder joint during the Semifinal win over Reed City but a week later carried the ball 33 times and ran for 210 yards in the title game. He had four touchdowns that day in the Stags' 38-24 victory over Almont.

Merchant has had various injuries over the course of his career, undergoing wrist surgery as a sophomore for a carpal tunnel injury and having floating cartilage taken out of a knee following his junior wrestling season.

But what he endured on the way to Ford Field was the topper as he endured two torn ligaments in his knee, a fractured leg, a torn meniscus — and, later on — a pair of broken ribs sustained late in the championship game.

“When you’re in the game, it’s all about adrenaline,” said Merchant, who is facing another surgery in May but shot a 95 to lead Kingsley in its first tournament of the season Thursday at the Frostbite Open in Manton. “You don’t even think about the injury until you get off the field, and that’s when you get ice bags and fight it off.”

They have been close friends since elementary school and credit the Kingsley coaching, teaching and counseling staffs with preparing them for life after graduation.

Graves and Merchant call football their favorite sport. Graves hopes to also play football at the college level, and Merchant expects to continue on the wrestling mat.

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) Eli Graves, left, and Gavyn Merchant are among standouts for Kingsley’s baseball team again this spring. (Middle) Merchant (6) hands the ball off to Graves during the Division 6 championship win at Ford Field. (Below) Merchant putts during Thursday’s golf opener. (Baseball photos by Karen Middleton.)