Homer Ends Spring with Title Celebration

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

June 15, 2019

EAST LANSING – After a postseason full of winning, the players on the Homer baseball team have become dogpile veterans. 

So after the Trojans defeated Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 4-0 on Saturday in the MHSAA Division 3 Final, a small game of “I’m not going to be on the bottom” broke out before the traditional baseball celebration commenced.

“The dogpiles get a little more intense, a little more vicious the more you keep winning,” Homer coach Scott Salow said. “Today, I’ll watch the video later, but I think it was pretty good. I think they’ve gotten smart after the last five or six dogpiles; they all kind of look around and wait. I’m the last one out of the dugout, so I’m not going in.”

Homer (33-3) scored four runs in the first inning at McLane Stadium and rode the arm of senior pitcher Zach Butters to its first Finals title since 2006, and third overall. 

“We’ve been working to get here for a long time, this group of guys,” Butters said. “It’s overwhelming to finally get here and win this with my guys. It means a lot. I mean, look at all these people out here coming out to support us. We’re a small town, and it’s just a great feeling. It means the world.”

Butters, who also picked up the win in the Semifinal in a relief appearance, kept a potent Liggett off balance for the 6 1/3 innings he was on the mound. He scattered five hits and two walks while striking out six. 

“We had a gameplan going into it to stay away,” Butters said. “We saw yesterday where they like to pull, they like to turn over on pitches, so we were just trying to stay away as much as we could and execute the gameplan. My offspeed was pretty good today, and I just had a great defense making plays behind me all day. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to go out and battle with.”

Liggett (24-10) knew coming in that would be Butters’ gameplan, but was out-executed.

“He threw his slider/curveball out of the zone, and we just kept swinging at it,” Liggett coach Dan Cimini said. “The gameplan was to not swing at that. If you look back, a lot of 2-1 sliders out of the zone we were swinging at. That’s 3-1, that changes everything. Give him credit for throwing good pitches, but our guys need to lay off that kind of stuff.”

Butters got some help from his defense, which didn’t commit an error and also got him out of the one jam he found himself in all day. With one out and runners on first and second in the sixth inning, Liggett senior Alec Azar hit what looked to be a base hit into left field. But junior leftfielder Dylan Warner made a diving catch and jumped up to double up the runner at second.

“It could have been a better catch, but I got a late read on it,” Warner said. “Then when I got up, I saw the kid halfway, I just threw it and it was right on the money.”

Butters enjoyed his view of the play from the mound.

“I knew it was going to be a close one – Dylan was out there, and he was running,” Butters said. “I was like, ‘Oh boy.’ Then he lays out like Superman, and he comes up with it. It was a great play.”

T.J. VanderKuyl closed out the game, getting the final two outs for the Trojans after Butters reached his pitch limit two batters into the seventh inning. VanderKuyl kept it relatively drama free, and the final out was a roller to Butters at short.

All of Homer’s offense, meanwhile, came in the first inning, highlighted by a two-run double from Kyle Compton and a two-run single from Wilson. The Trojans threatened again in the second, putting runners at the corners with two outs, but Cimini went to the bullpen and brought in senior Billy Kopicki, who ended the threat. 

Kopicki was strong in relief, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out two in 4 1/3 innings. Kopicki is part of a strong senior class that was part of three Final Four runs and helped the Knights win a title in 2016.

“They’ve been great,” Cimini said. “Alec Azar and Billy Kopicki and Logan King are going on to play college baseball. Obviously, Mickey Walkowiak was phenomenal this year at first base, and had great leadership. Kellen Banaszewski is going to try and walk-on at Grand Valley – he made one error all year in the infield. They’re going to be sorely missed, but they paved the way for these younger guys, and these guys know how to act. They were leaders. I’m looking forward to the new class, but I’m going to miss the old class.”

Drew Zelenak led Liggett with two hits, while Patrick Illitch had a double. Wilson led Homer with a pair of hits.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Homer's Zach Butters (3) and Damaso LeBron enjoy a moment during the Division 3 championship game. (Middle) Dylan Warner closes in on a diving catch for the Trojans.

Softball Standout Finds New Home in Addison Baseball Lineup

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

April 23, 2024

ADDISON – Alisha Gahn has a new bat, new mitt, and new uniform this season.

Greater DetroitThe Addison senior didn’t transfer schools or move into a new district. She picked up a new sport – baseball.

“She’s doing really well,” said Addison head coach Rick Gramm. “She’s adjusted just fine.”

Gahn has had a love for softball from a young age and jumped into recreation and travel leagues early on while starting to pitch to her dad, Kelly.

She played for three years with the Addison varsity with her dad a co-head coach. When Addison decided to re-post the coaching job this past offseason, Kelly said he stepped aside. In the aftermath, Alisha decided to not play softball for Addison this spring.

Baseball became a possibility, and Kelly Gahn told his daughter he’d support whatever she decided.

“I just wanted to do something,” Alisha Gahn said. “I didn’t want to sit around and be sad that I didn’t play softball.”

She started attending Addison’s offseason baseball workouts.

“She told me she was leaning toward playing baseball rather than softball,” Gramm said. “We talked about it and checked into it. Opening day came, she showed up to the tryouts and she did well in the cage, and she throws the ball well.

“She’s just got a mind for the game. The rules of baseball and softball are basically the same, so she knows what she is doing out there.”

Gahn, who recently turned 18, is having a blast.

In a doubleheader against Tekonsha on Friday, Gahn went 2-for-3 at the plate. She’s playing mainly rightfield but also has been penciled into the Panthers lineup as a designated hitter.

The biggest thing for her personally is she’s no longer a pitcher. Last year she went 12-6 with 177 strikeouts in 107 innings for the Addison softball team in earning a Division 4 all-state honorable mention.

“Pitching is my thing,” she said. “That’s what I’ve done for years. That is what I did. That was my place on a team. That’s not my place in baseball.

It took some time to adjust to high school baseball pitching as well.

“The hitting is definitely different,” she said. “But I think that is what we work on as a team the most, so that helps.”

Gramm said Gahn - who hit .357 in 115 at-bats in softball last year - can hit on this diamond as well.

Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing.“We didn’t know how she would adjust to the pitching – the smaller ball, the distance (from the pitcher’s mound to home plate). She connects. She puts the ball in play. She does very good at the plate.”

Gahn said she likes baseball so far. She's even adjusting to her new mitt.

“I always knew there were differences between baseball and softball,” she said. “Whenever I watch Major League Baseball on TV, it looks like a bunch of guys trying to get home runs. After playing it, I like it. It’s pushed me and forced me to grow in the other positions.”

One of main differences is on the basepaths.

“On Friday, I got a hit and got on base,” she said. “My first base coach was talking to me. I got a little bit distracted, and I got picked off. I definitely learned something.”

Gahn said her new teammates have been great.

“Getting to know how to interact with a team of guys is different,” she said. “I have to find ways to connect with them. We are all playing the same sport, though. We are just players on the same team, just playing baseball. It’s slowly getting more comfortable. (But) there are times I miss playing on a team of girls.”

“She fits in just fine,” Gramm said of her move to baseball. “She’s part of the guys and part of the team. They just want to play and just want to win. The team has taken to her. They know her, and she’s part of that senior group anyways. I think she is having a good, fun time. It hasn’t been much of a transition at all. She’s been a welcome addition.”

Softball is still part of Gahn’s life.

Missouri is one of the few states that plays softball in the fall, which means travel softball season is in the spring. Gahn and her family pack up on the weekends and head south to play on a travel team, something the MHSAA allows since she is not currently playing softball in Michigan. It’s a seven-hour drive, one way.

“At first I was just going to go down south on the weekends and play softball,” she said. “Then I got to thinking what about baseball. We looked it up, went through the rules and it worked out perfectly. The MHSAA says softball is not the same sport as baseball. I can play baseball for Addison and go down south to play softball.”

Gahn, who also dances competitively and golfs – she tied for 18th in the latter at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final in the fall – wants to play softball in college. She’s talked to a few coaches, she said, who are supportive of her decision to play baseball this spring.

“I’ve put so much work into softball,” she said. “College is the next step for me. I’m super excited. At the end of the day, I just want to play softball.”

Gahn said her and her family did have a conversation about moving to a new district, but she was against that.

“I just want to graduate with my friends,” she said. “Sports are important to me, but I didn’t want to uproot my life. The easiest decision might have been to just move and go somewhere else. I didn’t want to do that. I’m happy right now.”

Doug DonnellyDoug 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 Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Alisha Gahn hangs out with her baseball teammates in the dugout this season. (Middle) Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing. (Photos courtesy of Kelly Gahn.)