Freshmen Spark Royals' Regional Return

June 8, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

Larry Tuttle has seen just about everything in his 51 seasons of coaching the Blissfield varsity baseball team. So much, in fact, that there’s not a lot of “firsts” anymore on the diamond.

But, when the Royals went out and won the 27th District title in Tuttle’s career last weekend, something new did happen. A 14-year-old pitched the Royals to the championship.

“He’s 60 years younger than me,” Tuttle said about his freshman pitcher, Ty Wyman. “That’s a lot of years.”

It’s also a lot of championships. The Royals are 25-9 this season and in the Regionals for the first time since 2010. The biggest reason they are still alive has been the development of the young players on the team. Eight of the 14 players on the Royals roster are either freshmen or sophomores, including Wyman.

“We started out a little shaky. We couldn’t find our groove,” said Wyman, who doesn’t turn 15 until late October. “It was mostly our defense. Once we started playing better defense, everything started coming together.”

When the Lenawee County Athletic Association coaches picked the all-league team this week, three of the Blissfield freshmen made first team – Wyman at first base, catcher Zach Horky and outfielder Gavin Ganun. That’s a rare feat, even for a coach as experienced as Tuttle.

“They are not just good baseball players, they are smart and outstanding athletes,” Tuttle said. “The success they are having now is a testament to how hard they have worked. They’ve had good coaching all along. They are intelligent baseball players. They know the game. Their parents have done a great job.”

Wyman said his teammates push each other on the field, court or diamond.

“We’ve been playing together since we were 6 years old,” he said. “We always push each other to do better.”

Ganun burst onto the Lenawee County sports scene in the fall when the ninth-grader was named the Blissfield starting varsity quarterback. All he did was guide the Royals to the third round of the MHSAA Playoffs and lead the county in passing yards. He also was a starter on the varsity basketball team in the winter and an immediate starter for the Royals baseball team. During the regular season, he batted .400 and tied for the county lead in hits, doubles and home runs.

“His dad played for our 1992 team that won a state championship,” Tuttle said of Ganun. “Next year, he’ll probably move into the infield and pitch for us.”

Horky started the season as an outfielder but became the starting catcher as the season went on.

“He worked his way into the catcher’s spot,” Tuttle said. “That really solidified our team.”

Growing up, Wyman mainly played second base. With that position already handled, he had to find a different spot to play on the Royals varsity team.

“I just wanted to play,” he said. “I wanted to work hard so that the coaches couldn’t keep me out of the lineup.”

He found a home at first base. As the season wore on, he also became one of Blissfield’s starting pitchers. In the District Final against Dundee, Wyman allowed just three hits and shut out the Vikings.

“I just wanted to throw strikes,” Wyman said. “I knew my defense was going to pick me up.”

Wyman comes from a strong background in sports. His mother, the former Melissa Stahl, is among the top girls basketball scorers in state history. His sister Kelsey was a Class C Associated Press basketball Player of the Year, and he has a brother on the current Royals baseball team.

Tuttle said the three freshmen all earned their spots in the lineup because of their work ethic in practice.

“It’s always been my philosophy that you earn your playing time in practice,” Tuttle said. “I tell the kids it doesn’t matter what grade you are in or what your name is. If you want to play, you have to earn it in practice.”

Wyman could get another shot to pitch Saturday if the Royals make the Regional Final at Clinton. Ann Arbor Greenhills (18-12) plays Jonesville (21-11-2) at 10 a.m. and the Royals take on Michigan Center (24-7) in the second Regional Semifinal.

Tuttle, who turned 74 on Wednesday, has won seven MHSAA championships during his tenure at Blissfield. He has no plans to leave the game that has meant so much to his life. He entered the season ranked second on the all-time Michigan high school baseball coaching victory list with 1,245. The leader is Grand Ledge’s Pat O’Keefe. A District champion as well, Grand Ledge is 32-3 this season, giving O’Keefe 1,286 wins, 16 more than Tuttle.

“These kids keep me young,” Tuttle said. “This was a pivotal year for us, but we have a great group of parents and I have a great coaching staff. I’m not able to do some of the things I used to be able to do, physically, but I still work with the kids. I can still teach the fundamentals, and I love working with them. I’m not going anywhere.”

Doug 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 Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTO: Blissfield pitcher Ty Wyman winds up during one of his turns on the mound this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Blissfield baseball program.)

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.)