Lakeshore, John Glenn Win Big in D2

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 15, 2017

EAST LANSING – Stevensville Lakeshore trailed 1-0 and did not have a hit until leadoff batter Ryan Remus stepped to the plate to open the bottom of the third inning of Thursday’s Division 2 Semifinal against Chelsea.

That’s when the game changed. Remus singled, went to second on a balk and with a head-first slide scored the tying run – swinging the momentum clearly toward the Lancers.

Lakeshore went on to score four runs in that inning and defeat Chelsea 7-1 at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium.

Lakeshore (35-6), headed to a Final for the first time since 1990 when it won the Class B title, will play Bay City John Glenn for the championship at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Glenn will make its second Final appearance in search of its first MHSAA title.

Glenn (34-8) hammered Dearborn Divine Child, 15-4, in the second Semifinal, with 15 hits and a seven-run second inning to set the tone.

Cal Barrett homered with two outs in the first Semifinal to stake Chelsea to a 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs allowed three walks over the first two innings, but Remus’ at bat helped turn the game around. Standing on second after the balk, Remus got a good jump on Trey Thibeault’s line drive single to right center. Hunter Neff’s throw to Barrett seemed to beat Remus to the plate, but the senior second baseman alluded the tag with his slide.

Tyler Mojsiejenko followed with another single to center, and when the ball got past Neff, Thibeault scored for a 2-1 lead. Starting pitcher Connor Brawley tripled to score the third run, and Brawley came home on Max Gaishin’s sacrifice fly.

From there Brawley held Chelsea (31-10) to two hits over the final four innings, and the junior lefthander finished with a complete game five-hitter. He walked none and struck out five.

Remus said he didn’t notice the balk, but was aware that he started something big.

“I was just trying to get myself a good lead,” he said. “I didn’t look to see the throw (from center). I trusted my on-deck hitter (Brawley). He knew when it was coming and gave me the (slide) sign. After that we started hitting the ball hard and finding holes.”

Chelsea coach Adam Taylor didn’t think those four runs changed the momentum. He said his team had come back from greater deficits and was confident they’d do it again.

“The difference was their starter,” Taylor said. “He threw all three pitches for strikes, and in high school that works. Get it and go.

“When people scored on us throughout the year, we did a good job of coming back. It goes back to what I said. Their pitcher was the difference.”

Lakeshore had nine hits, and Mojsiejenko (with three) was the only batter with more than one.

“That balk kind of loosened us up,” Lakeshore coach Mark Nate said. “Sometimes it takes us awhile. That slide was big. Credit my third base coach (Matt Cotton) for that.”

Click for the full box score.

Bay City John Glenn 15, Dearborn Divine Child 4

John Glenn had four hits in the second inning, and add in three Divine Child errors and the Bobcats had a big, early lead.

“They had us for three (errors), and it could have been four,” Divine Child coach Dan Deegan said. “They teed off on every one of our pitchers.”

Brad Mularz went all five innings and allowed five hits for the Bobcats. Getting those seven quick runs made his job that much easier.

“It means a lot to just go five,” Mularz said. “It keeps us fresh. With (Friday) being a day off, we’ll be ready.”

Corey Langenburg had two hits and four RBI to lead Glenn. Matt Fisher, Ben Cnudde and Mularz each had three RBI, and Tanner Gilles, the eighth batter in the lineup, went 4-4.

“They’re a loose bunch,” Glenn coach Jeff Hartt said. “Sometimes they’re too loose. When you put the ball in play in high school baseball, good things can happen.”

Divine Child finished 23-20.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lakeshore pitcher Connor Brawley makes his move toward the plate during Thursday's Semifinals. (Middle) Bay City John Glenn's Brad Mularz delivers a pitch.

Vast Experience Shapes Retired MLB-er Gates Into 3-Time Finals-Winning Coach

By Steve Vedder
Special for

August 1, 2023

If there is anything that Brent Gates knows for sure, it's that there is no single explanation for three MHSAA Finals baseball championships.

Made in Michigan is powered by Michigan Army National Guard.For starters, the Grand Rapids Christian coach credits the superior coaching he had as a youngster, especially for helping him make the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Dream Team in 1988.

From there, Gates points to the experience gained as a former Big 10 Baseball Player of the Year, a seven-year major league playing career that saw him rubbing shoulders with such notables as Hall-of-Famer Tony LaRussa and Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, and then landing at a high school where the critical support he received from players, community and administration was priceless.

Put it all together and that, at least in part, explains Gates becoming the first Grand Rapids-area baseball coach with three state titles on his resume.

The Eagles' 2-1 win over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in the June 17 Division 2 Final marked Gates' third title as a coach. His Grand Rapids Christian clubs had previously won back-to-back titles in 2012-13.

Gates passed former Grandville Calvin Christian coach Jay Milkamp as the Grand Rapids-area coach with the most state titles. Milkamp won in 1994 (Class C) and 1996 (Class B).

Gates, a member of three Halls of Fame, is quick to deflect the credit for three championships and two other championship game appearances. What he treasures most is being mentioned in the same breath as other legendary west-side coaches such as Jenison's Gary Cook, Ron Engels of Wyoming Park, Hudsonville's Dave Van Nord, East Grand Rapids' Chris LaMange, formerly Rockford and now Ada Forest Hills Eastern's Ian Hearn and Milkamp, most of whom Gates either played against while an all-stater at Grandville or through coaching at Grand Rapids Christian.

"I'm just a small piece of what has transpired in 11 years," he said. "Just to be mentioned with them and their success is an honor. (Three titles) is not an individual thing, but because of many people and what they can do working day in and day out together.

"I've always said the west side doesn't get the recognition it should in baseball. There are some great coaches here with great baseball talent, and I think you see that in the postseason."

If basketball can spawn what is affectionately known as "gym rats," then Gates is surely a classic example of the diamond's version of someone who has lived and breathed baseball his entire life. He was a two-time all-stater at Grandville who went on to a standout career at the University of Minnesota that included a lifetime .387 batting average. He was named the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1991 and consensus All-American. Gates played internationally with USA Baseball on the 18U team in 1988 and then the collegiate national team in 1989 and 1990. Over those two seasons on the collegiate team he appeared in 68 games, hitting a combined .363 with 49 runs scored and 54 RBIs.

He was drafted by the Oakland A's in the first round (26th overall) of the 1991 draft and went on to hit .264 in 685 major league games over seven seasons.

Gates makes a tag at second base while playing for the national team.Upon his retirement, Gates founded the Frozen Ropes training facility in Grand Rapids, worked as a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays, became the West Michigan Whitecaps' second-ever manager in 2001, coached Byron Center for two years and has compiled a remarkable 298-89 record in two coaching stints at Grand Rapids Christian.

After virtually a lifetime in baseball, Gates said his coaching success can be spread in many directions. He said it began at Grandville, was influenced by such managers as John Anderson at Minnesota and LaRussa and Kelly at the major league level, and with brushing shoulders with many of Grand Rapids' most successful coaches.

The experience led him to a coaching philosophy that includes a priority on building relationships with players, providing a full explanation of his thinking to the players, a quiet but firm coaching of fundamentals, and, above all, communication. If there is anything that Gates does not do, it's relying on the "old-school" coaching method where coaches demand excellence in no uncertain terms.

"I've taken little bits and pieces from a lot of people," said Gates, a member of the Grandville, University of Minnesota and Grand Rapids Halls of Fame. "I want players to figure out who they can be. Whether it's Ken Griffey Jr. as a hitter, Randy Johnson as a pitcher or Terry Steinbach in catching, you don't just take one person and say who can I be? If you want to compete at a high level, you need to be better than anyone you go up against.

"Part of being a good coach, and it doesn't matter if it's a 9U program or high school, is about making players understand and be able to apply what they learn. Baseball is a hard game, one of failure where if you succeed three times out of 10, you're a star. You have to get players to understand failure."

Gates said all three Grand Rapids Christian champions were marked by different strong suits. The 2012 club, for example, breezed its way to a 36-5 record, while the 2013 club finished the regular season just 12-15 but put together a torrid seven-game winning streak during the tournament. This year's team was marked by a deep pitching staff and what Gates describes as a "group of gamers."

"All of them were different, but I firmly believe that pitching and defense win championships," Gates said. "But you also have to get hot at the right time."

It's not unusual for major leaguers to completely hang up the spikes once their playing days are over. They're tired of the pressure, the frustration of fading talent and losing the battle with Father Time, and the constant travel away from family. Gates faced all that and still found himself enthralled with the idea of coaching.

Gates presents the championship trophy this season to his Grand Rapids Christian players."I've loved the game since I was like 4 years old. There's nothing better than smelling pine tar or the look of manicured grass. The smells and sounds of baseball, that's what I love," he said.

One of his coaching goals is to impart the love of the game to his players. And it seems the message is getting across.

"It's awesome playing for him," said first baseman/pitcher Ty Uchman, who graduated this spring. "He gets us to focus on the little things. If there is something on our minds, we know we can go to him. He's an open book. I know he'll always talk to us, and that builds trust and a bond."

Another recent grad, infielder Kyle Remington, will follow Gates' footsteps to the University of Minnesota and said one particular trait sticks out to him about his coach.

"He's very patient," Remington said. "There are all levels of players in high school, and he treats them all the same. Doesn't matter if they're struggling; he never raises his voice. He's a very comfortable and relatable coach to play for.

"He knows baseball is a game of failure so if you don't understand a drill or an adjustment to have to make, he'll talk to you in a patient way."

Gates said he suspected even when he was a major leaguer that coaching was likely in his future.

"I did, and it was an easy decision. God has a plan, and I had a feeling I would stay in the game," he said. "Baseball has given me everything. I love the game, and I know I've been blessed. I want to take what I've learned and pass it along. That's always been a part of me."

2023 Made In Michigan

July 25: After All-American Career, Rockford's Bennett Making Impact as Mat Mentor - Read
July 20: 
Oakridge 3-Sport Star Potts Applying Lessons to 'Second Chapter' in Sales - Read
July 18:
Frankfort Hoops Staff Bolstered by Past Stars Giving Back in Banktson, Kreski - Read
July 12:
Championship Memories, High School Tennis' Impact Stick with Hackett Pair - Read
July 6: 
Brother Rice Finals Hero Aiming to Ace Family Life, Financial World - Read
July 5:
Lapeer West 4-Time Finals Winner Set to Build Champions at Oklahoma - Read

PHOTOS (Top) Brent Gates appears on the USA Baseball collegiate national team in 1989 and makes a pitching change during this spring’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Gates makes a tag at second base while playing for the national team. (Below) Gates presents the championship trophy this season to his Grand Rapids Christian players. (National team photos courtesy of USA Baseball.)