GR Christian Makes Good on Season-Long Goal: Finish as D2's Best

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 17, 2023

EAST LANSING – Ever since losing in the Division 2 championship game a year ago, there was one mantra for Grand Rapids Christian: Finish the job.

“That was our goal all year,” Grand Rapids head coach Brent Gates said. “We wanted the dogpile at the end.”

Consider the job finished.

This time, it was Grand Rapids Christian’s players piling on each other in celebration at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium after gutting out a 2-1 win over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. 

It was sweet redemption for the Eagles (36-5), who won their first Finals title since 2013 and third overall, and fell to Ada Forest Hills Eastern 3-0 in last year’s deciding game.

Ranked No. 1 in the state entering the tournament, the Eagles outscored their opponents 57-8 during their run. 

“We talked about it all year, and this is what we worked for,” said senior Cam Seth, who played the biggest role in the championship game. 

The Eagles’ Cam Seth (8) delivers after coming on in relief. In the first inning, Seth came to the plate with two runners on and two out following a pair of errors by Liggett. Seth then drilled a 2-run triple to right field to give Grand Rapids Christian a 2-0 lead. 

“He threw a curveball, so I knew he was coming fastball,” Seth said. “He put it right where I liked it.”

As it turned out, that would be the only runs Grand Rapids Christian would need thanks to some clutch pitching by senior starter Ty Uchman, and then Seth in relief. 

In the top of the second, Liggett loaded the bases with two outs for Clemson-bound Jarren Purify, but Uchman got Purify to hit a hard grounder to short for a force out that ended the threat. 

In the fourth, Liggett had runners on first and third with two outs, but a groundout ended the inning. 

Finally in the fifth, Liggett pushed a run across on a fielder’s choice by senior and University of Texas-bound catcher Oliver Service, cutting Grand Rapids Christian’s lead to 2-1. 

After the first two runners for Liggett reached that inning, Uchman was pulled for Seth, who helped his team preserve the lead by getting three outs.

Following a 1-2-3 sixth, Seth had the daunting task in the seventh of facing the top of Liggett’s order – Purify, junior Reggie Sharpe and Service. 

A Grand Rapids Christian hitter connects. Purify laced a rope to left, but it hung up and was caught for the first out. Sharpe then grounded out on a close play at first for the second.

Service faced a 1-2 count, but eventually worked a walk and took second with two outs after a wild pitch. 

But Seth beared down and induced a groundout to end the game. 

“Great players, and I just wanted to attack them,” Seth said. “Just give them everything I got and leave it all out there. That’s what I tried to do.”

Liggett will lament not being able to come up with the big hit. The Knights finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base. 

Junior ace Preston Barr allowed only four hits, struck out three and walked just one for Liggett (26-12).

“We just didn’t get a hit with guys on base,” Liggett head coach Dan Cimini said. “You’ve just got to tip your cap to them. Their pitchers, both of them, did a really good job. We put the ball in play, we just didn’t get big hits. It happens. It’s baseball.” 

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Christian players celebrate their Division 2 championship Saturday at McLane Stadium. (Middle) The Eagles’ Cam Seth (8) delivers after coming on in relief. (Below) A Grand Rapids Christian hitter connects. (Photos by John Castine/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

For Coach: Powers Completes 1st Title Run for 42-Year Leader Dutkowski

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING — On behalf of this current Flint Powers Catholic baseball team, Saturday’s message was loud and clear to past players, alumni and school officials:

We finally did it for Tom. 

Tom would be longtime head coach Tom Dutkowski, who after 42 years and 872 wins finally got to coach in a state championship game Saturday. 

Not only did Powers get there for Dutkowski, but the Chargers delivered win No. 873 and his long-awaited first title as coach with an 11-0 defeat of Spring Lake in the Division 2 Final at McLane Stadium. 

“We just made Flint Powers history, and to be a part of that is amazing,” Powers senior Fischer Hendershot said. “We have a lot of alumni and a lot of alumni on the coaching staff. To do it for the coaching staff, everyone here, everyone in Powers, every alumni and everyone who cares about us is a great feeling.” 

The Chargers’ Fischer Hendershot delivers a pitch.After accepting the championship trophy and raising into the air triumphantly, Dutkowski reflected on the journey and long wait.

It was the third title for Powers baseball, joining the 1974 and 1980 championships. Dutkowski was an assistant on the 1980 team. 

“I played in ’73 here, and my joke for that was that I taught the ’74 guys everything they knew and then they won a state championship the next year,” Dutkowski said. “We won it in ’80 with just a gritty team. My third year as a head coach we got to the final four in Class A, and I figured this was going to happen every three years. And then it was a 39-year drought in terms of that.”

The game ended after five innings via the run differential rule and capped off a fairly dominant season for Powers — or at least as dominant as a baseball team can be for a season.

The Chargers finished 37-6 and outscored opponents by a combined 57-13 during the MHSAA Tournament.

The only close call during the playoffs came in Friday’s Semifinal, when Powers blew a 3-0 lead to Trenton before prevailing in the bottom of the eighth inning, 4-3, on a walk-off single by senior Gavin Darling. 

“These guys, they never flinched and they never wavered,” Dutkowski said. “They developed into being a great team, not just individual talent.”

Powers wasted no time against Spring Lake, taking a 2-0 lead with one out in the top of the first inning on a two-run double to the gap in left-center by Darling. After a ground out, Darling scored on a Spring Lake throwing error to give Powers a 3-0 lead. 

Powers added another run in the second inning on a bases-loaded walk to make it 4-0. 

Teammates congratulate Michael Klein (6) as he returns to the dugout.In the third, Powers scored four runs to take an 8-0 lead on an RBI single by Hendershot, a walk with the bases loaded and a two-run single by freshman Connor Kelly. 

Powers then put three more runs on the board in the fourth inning to take an 11-0 lead. 

Hendershot was the winner on the mound, allowing two hits and striking out five in five innings of work. 

Spring Lake also was attempting to win its first Finals title, but had to settle for its third runner-up finish (to go with those from 1995 and 1978). 

The Lakers finished 32-10. 

“They are a good team, and this was their year,” Spring Lake head coach Bill Core said. “We just couldn’t keep them off of the bases, and our pitching wasn’t as sharp as it’s been. We gave them a couple of free passes, and they mixed in some good hitting. That’s a good team, and that’s why they’ve been ranked No. 1 in the state all year.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Flint Powers Catholic raises its championship trophy to complete the 2024 baseball season Saturday evening at McLane Stadium. (Middle) The Chargers’ Fischer Hendershot delivers a pitch. (Below) Teammates congratulate Michael Klein (6) as he returns to the dugout.