EAST LANSING – Stephen Kwapis is headed off to Notre Dame next season to play baseball at his dream school.
The Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep senior captain couldn’t leave high school without helping make another dream come true.
The Irish built an early lead and never looked back en route to defeating Marine City Cardinal Mooney 9-2 in Saturday’s Division 4 Final at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium.
“It’s unreal,” said a wide-eyed and giddy Kwapis, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for my whole life, and for it to actually happen ... it hasn’t hit me yet, honestly. I can’t believe that just happened.”
It was the first Finals win in school history for Hackett baseball, which reached the championship game for the first time.
Hackett (31-9) scored at least one run in each of the first four innings and received stellar pitching from senior Sam Shea and junior reliever Brenden Collins.
“It’s surreal to watch these boys accomplish this,” Irish first-year coach Smiley Verduzco said. “They worked so hard, and it’s all about the boys. We’ve had some really tough games, and this was a really good baseball team that we beat. To be able to do this is very special for these young men.”
Shea and Collins combined to limit Mooney to only four hits while striking out seven.
“They’ve been good all year, and to step on this stage and to come through like that is very special,” Verduzco said.
Shea wasn’t slated to pitch in the Final after starting the Semifinal. However, the lineup’s big first inning Friday against Glen Lake allowed him to return after throwing only 23 pitches.
“I’m thankful that I was able to pitch in the last game because I didn’t think that would happen,” Shea said. “It was unbelievable to pitch in the championship game, and it was super important to get those early runs so we could calm down and play our usual baseball.”
Kwapis had a strong belief in his team’s ability to make a postseason run. He said it was apparent early due to the tight-knit bond.
“I knew the brotherhood that this team had, and that’s what made this team so special,” he said. “We all came together at the beginning of the year, and I just knew by the way we played that we could make it happen.”
Hackett’s bats were pivotal throughout the tournament, scoring 71 runs over its seven postseason games.
Isaac Backman also had two hits for Hackett, while Eli Backman and Steven Widger each had a hit and two RBI.
The Irish went ahead 2-0 in the first inning after a Kwapis RBI single and sacrifice fly from Shea.
They extended their lead to 8-1 after four innings.
“They came out hacking,” Mooney coach Mike Rice said. “They were hitting the ball, and we haven’t been squared up like that in a while. We tried our best and gave it our all, but at the end of the day they out-hit us and we made some defensive mistakes.”
Mooney, also making its first Final appearance, committed four errors on the day and left 10 runners on base.
The Cardinals ended the season with a 28-7 overall record.
PHOTOS: (Top) Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep players raise their championship trophy Saturday night at McLane Stadium. (Middle) Sam Shea charges hard to make a catch in right field.
Standish-Sterling’s run to the 2022 Division 3 Semifinals was driven in part by a record-setting offense, including a pair of senior standouts who posted single-season and career highlights.
The Panthers made the team record book in four categories, topped by a record 28 triples over 42 games. They also were added for 371 RBI (fourth all-time), 425 runs (12th) and 414 hits.
Cole Prout tied the MHSAA record for runs scored in one season with 84 and set the record with 27 career triples over three seasons (with 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). His 13 triples in 2022 tied for third on that list, while Chase Raymond’s 10 tied for 11th. Prout also tied for 12th all-time with 182 career runs, while Raymond is eighth on the single-season RBI list with 77 over 42 games in 2022 and earned a career RBI entry with 140.
Prout plays now at Central Michigan, and Raymond is playing at Saginaw Valley State.
See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA baseball record book:
Alden Stefanovski played a major role in Whitmore Lake reaching the 2022 Division 4 Semifinals. The senior also made the record book with 20 doubles over 33 games, the first from his school to earn a listing. He was joined in 2023 in the records by senior Alex Di Dio, who hit nine triples over 29 games and also three home runs in one game April 13 against Adrian Madison. Di Dio also was added for 13 triples and a .460 average for his three-season career, and he’s continuing at Kalamazoo College.
Trenton senior Jason Marshall was nearly unstoppable on the base paths during the 2022 season – and perfect stealing on them. He made the record book with 49 steals in 49 attempts, and also for seven triples over 35 games. He’s playing football at Eastern Michigan.
Trent Hagenbach finished his Saginaw Valley Lutheran career in 2022 tied for 11th on the career triples list with 16 despite not having a 2020 season and hitting all of them over the final two. He also made the records for his seven as a junior and nine as a senior.
Dansville had 10 pitchers contribute to its 388 strikeouts over 38 games during the 2022 season, a total which placed the Aggies second all-time. Tucker Mosley paced the team with 137 strikeouts.
Parchment’s Aaron Jasiak finished his three-season varsity career with seven record book entries, including one of the most impressive winning streaks all-time. He won all 26 pitching starts over his career, which didn’t start until his sophomore season because of the COVID-related cancelation of 2020. His winning streak is the seventh longest in MHSAA history, and his 0.87 ERA ranks 11th. He also made career lists with 163 runs scored, 112 stolen bases and a .460 batting average over 103 games, and his 60 steals over 38 games this spring rank 10th. He’s continuing at Hillsdale College.
Bay City Western finished 42-2 in winning the Division 1 championship in 2013, ranking sixth for most wins in a baseball season. The Warriors also tied the record with 21 shutouts, and their 1.02 ERA ranks fifth all-time.
Grandville Calvin Christian senior Blake Pettijohn struck out 20 batters in a 7-0 win over Belding on May 11, which tied for seventh-most for a seven-inning game. He’s continuing at Hope College.
Grant’s Oakley Obenauf made the single-season stolen bases list in the spring with 45 over 29 games – and was a major contributor as his team made the single-game list multiple times. He had a combined eight steals over two games as Grant swiped 13 and 11 bases during halves of a doubleheader May 11. Obenauf is a senior this school year.
Paw Paw reached the team record book this past spring after being hit by 50 pitches over 30 games. Seven players were hit by at least five pitches, with the team leader totaling 10.
Lansing Eastern earned its first record book entries from a pair of graduating seniors this spring. Dominic Wilson capped his three-season varsity career with 134 stolen bases, which rank 10th. He swiped a career-high 51 as a senior. Teammate Matthew Stevenson made the career batting average list at .472 despite getting only eight at bats as a sophomore because of an injury.
Benzie Central’s Wyatt Noffsinger enjoyed a memorable run to nearly finish off his high school career, throwing consecutive no-hitters against Buckley on May 24 and then Manton on June 3.
Okemos then-junior Caleb Bonemer earned his first record book entry with three home runs June 3 against Grand Ledge as his team clinched a Division 1 District title. Bonemer has committed to sign with Virginia.
After 45 years, Flint Southwestern’s Ruben Luna and Risto Nicevski were added for their accomplishments on the 1978 Class A championship team. Luna made the wins list with a record of 14-0 and the ERA list with a 0.71, and Nicevski made the ERA list with a 0.72. Both went on to play at Michigan State.
East Lansing’s Sam Busch enjoyed a career day on April 12, 2019, when he hit three home runs in consecutive at bats against Ionia. A junior that season, he’s now playing at Michigan State.
Powers North Central’s Adrian Mercier enjoyed a record-worthy junior season this spring. He hit .619 over 32 games, ranking 10th all-time for a single season.
Whitehall senior Cayden Ritchie chased and nearly caught the single-season stolen base record in 2021, when he tied for second with 72 steals over 36 games. He also made the single-game steals list five times, twice with a high of six.
Aidan Liedeke capped his Brighton Charyl Stockwell career in the spring with some of the most impressive strikeout numbers in state history. Already listed for averaging 15.41 strikeouts per game as a junior in 2022, he averaged 14.92 Ks per game this spring to finish his three-season career at 15 strikeouts per game. He posted a 0.88 ERA in the spring as well to finish with a career 1.52. He’s playing at Kalamazoo College.
Killian Bies finished his Marshall three-season career in the spring among leaders all-time for getting hit by pitches. He already had tied for sixth as a sophomore in 2021 with 22 HBPs, and with 14 more both his junior and senior seasons he finished with 50 to rank fifth on that list. He’s continuing at Cornerstone.
PHOTO Standish-Sterling's Cole Prout (8) readies for a pitch during his team's 2022 Division 3 Semifinal.