Latest Scheurer Earns Place in St Pat's Fame

May 17, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

PORTLAND – Hopefully Brandon Scheurer always remembers his most thrilling five minutes in high school baseball like they were five minutes ago.

Two years ago, just a sophomore but already playing shortstop for the second time in a Division 4 championship game, Scheurer awaited the ground ball that could clinch Portland St. Patrick’s first MHSAA Finals title.

“There was a runner on first, two outs, and I got hit a ground ball right at me. I'm not going to lie; (I was) a little nervous there and I kinda came up on it a little bit, almost booted it, but I got it in my glove, flipped it to our second baseman and he got the force out at second for the last out,” Scheurer recalled this week. “Honestly, after that it was like blacking out a little bit. I heard the cheers and the roar after we got that last out. We all went and jumped on each other, and after coming out of the pile and kinda coming back down to Earth a little bit I saw my dad and just went over and gave him a huge hug and then saw my Uncle Bryan and gave him a huge hug.

“He's like, all that, everything we’ve done, has been working towards this moment right here.”

Brandon Scheurer wants to enjoy that moment one more time.

Sports, St. Pat’s and Scheurers have been synonymous for three decades. And Brandon, the second-oldest of this next generation of Scheurer Shamrocks present and future, has more than propped up the family tradition.

Scheurer is finishing his fourth varsity season manning shortstop for what is again the top-ranked team in Division 4, and is signed to continue his career at Saginaw Valley State University. Uncle Bryan is in his 15th season as varsity baseball coach, and the team has won nearly 75 percent of its games under his leadership. Dad Mark is Bryan’s forever assistant, plus just stepped down after 19 years coaching basketball including the last 12 guiding St. Patrick’s boys varsity.

Mark Scheurer won nine letters at St. Patrick before graduating in 1989, then walked on at Central Michigan University and played himself into three seasons as a starter. Bryan also was a three-sport standout graduating from St. Patrick in 1996, played on a national championship baseball team at Grand Rapids Community College in 1997 and then starred at CMU while becoming an Academic All-American in 2001.

The family athleticism extends farther than dad and uncle. Brandon’s mother Jill was a gymnast at CMU. Cousin Dylan Carroll played football at Grand Valley State and recently signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears. Cousin Chase Fitzsimmons is the Shamrocks’ catcher, and cousin Nathan Lehnert a top pitcher. Both of Brandon’s younger sisters are three-sport athletes. The lone older cousin, Mallory (whose dad Jeff is Mark and Bryan's older brother), was a three-sport athlete at St. Patrick and graduated a year ago.

“I hoped he’d never have that pressure, but some comes with (the name),” Bryan Scheurer said. “But he’s a better high school player than Mark or I were. Mark was just OK, I had more over-the-fence power, but I didn’t have the arm (Brandon) has in high school.

“He’s just a coach on field, just a complete player with all the things he can do to help us win.”

Brandon, like Bryan, was a quarterback growing up but stopped the sport after a broken left femur suffered on a tackle in eighth grade led to three months in a cast with 8-inch pins holding things together. Instead, Brandon spent one fall season as a sophomore running cross country, and all four winters with Dad on the varsity basketball team. Brandon scored more than 1,000 points with an MHSAA record book-qualifying 201 3-pointers over 81 games.

On the diamond, he's a two time all-stater and academic all-stater. This spring, heading into Thursday’s doubleheader against Fulton, Brandon was hitting .569 with 12 doubles, three triples and 29 RBI while leading off, plus had stolen 23 bases. He’d also struck out 43 with just four walks in 21 1/3 innings pitched, and hadn’t given up an earned run mostly serving as the team’s closer.

He’s been around sports since before he could walk. Mark used to hire a student to watch Brandon in his car seat as an infant during basketball practices, and Brandon has been every kind of ball boy and had his dad and/or uncle as coaches in everything going back to at least seventh grade.

A son of two teachers, academic prowess also doesn’t fall far from the tree. Scheurer is ranked second in his graduating class with a GPA over 4.0 and will study mechanical engineering at SVSU. He was a finalist this winter for an MHSAA/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Award, given to only 32 seniors statewide.

“We’ve always told him lead your own life, lead your own path, and you’ll be judged accordingly,” Mark Scheurer said. “He’s always been driven by numbers, by academics, wanting to be the best.

“For me and for Jill, it’s just been an awesome ride watching him and being able to be a part of it as a dad and as a coach. People ask me about the stress of it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Brandon’s Scholar-Athlete application essay focused on how Mark taught him at a young age to win with humility and lose with grace, and Brandon said he’s learned most from his dad and uncle how to be a leader and what leadership really means. “There's a lot of things that go into it,” Scheurer said. “The leader isn't just the guy that leads stretches and the guy that's the captain of the team. From the worst guy on your team to the best guy on your team, you have to know how to address every single person and what everybody needs to hear.”

With St. Patrick also finishing Division 4 runner-up his freshman season, and then going 20-8 a year ago before falling in its District, few players in the state have enjoyed as much success or experienced as much at tournament time.

The seeds were planted early, but Brandon especially remembers when he and Bryan – his confirmation sponsor – watched “Remember the Titans” together as part of Brandon’s prep. They were supposed to find and discuss aspects of faith in the movie. They both also remember watching the ending when T.C. Williams High School wins a Virginia state championship, and discussing how it would feel to be part of something like that together.

A few months later, they experienced it themselves at McLane Baseball Stadium.

With some star power plus the deepest bench and pitching since Bryan Scheurer has been coach, they are on track to give it another shot. St. Patrick is 23-1 and opens play Monday in the Capital Diamond Classic against Division 2 DeWitt, before facing Division 3 top-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia for the Central Michigan Athletic Conference championship next Friday. Both should serve as valuable preparation for a run at Division 4.

“I think it's a good start; I don't want to say it's over yet,” Brandon Scheurer said. “This is definitely a good start to the kind of year we wanted to have, especially after last year. (Finishing) 20-8 for a lot of teams is really good – it's a great year. But for how we played the two years before that, 34 wins back to back years, it's just kinda how we got used to playing.

“We want to try to make that run into June again. That's a goal this team has and that I have personally – I want to get back there. I want to try to win another state championship, because that was one of the coolest things that's ever happened. Especially seeing my dad and uncle afterward, the hugs we gave each other, that's something since I've been really little that we've always worked for and tried to work towards.

“They came really close, and to actually get them that was awesome. But I'd love to do it again.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA as its Media & Content Coordinator in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He has served as Editor of Second Half since its creation in Jan. 2012. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Brandon Scheurer in 2017 picks up the grounder that led to the final out of the Division 4 championship game. (Middle) Scheurer, with his parents and sisters, celebrates reaching the 1,000-point milestone this past basketball season.

Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 24, 2023

Kenna Bommarito remembers how many people were in East Lansing a year ago to support her and her Algonac softball teammates at the Division 3 Semifinals.

Bay & ThumbSo, she has an idea of how many people from the town would show up if both the softball and baseball teams were there this time around.

“I think everyone would be,” the junior pitcher said.

There’s a decent possibility that Bommarito’s theory could be tested. The Muskrats softball team is ranked No. 2 in Division 3, and Tuesday night clinched the first Blue Water Area Conference title in program history.

That came one night after the baseball team – ranked No. 1 in Division 3 – also won its first BWAC title. The BWAC was created in 2002, and Algonac was an original member.

“It’s amazing – this town loves it,” said senior baseball player Tyler Schultz. “We’ve got a small community, and everybody is tagging along. I remember last year, a couple of our final postseason games, that was the most people I’ve ever seen at a game. All of the sports here are starting to build up. We have athletes all around the school. I think as time goes on, I think each sport will get better and better.”

Bommarito’s imagined scenario nearly played out a year ago, as both teams made their deepest postseason run.

While the softball team was making its historic run to the Semifinal, the baseball team was making one of its own, advancing to the Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.

Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in.The baseball team’s movement toward this started with the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when the Muskrats won back-to-back District titles.

“We had a couple DI (college) players, and when you have those players come through, it generates excitement through the youth,” said Algonac baseball coach Scott Thaler, who took over the program in 2017. “It’s been a trickle-down effect from that initial first two years. That really set the bar. We’ve had some really good baseball players come through, and I have a great staff.”

Thaler had stressed back then that he wanted to build a program at Algonac and not have it be a flash in the pan. That certainly looks like it’s happening, and not just because his Muskrats are winning and sitting atop the state rankings.

Algonac – which has fewer than 500 students in the entire school – has junior varsity and freshman baseball teams. Thaler also said there are 25 eighth graders coming into the program next year.

“I think that when I was smaller in little league, we didn’t really have that where we went out on the field with the varsity players,” said junior pitcher Josh Kasner. “Now, that’s gotten a lot better. A lot of the smaller kids we see around town, they know who we are and about (the program).”

Of course, talent wasn’t enough to get there. Thaler needed to instill belief in his team in order to help the younger generation see what was possible.

“I was a (football assistant) coach under Scott Barnhart, and one of the things we preached to the kids back then is ‘To believe in the things you haven’t seen before,’” Thaler said. “That’s the mantra we brought to them last year, ‘Why not us?’ Just because it hasn’t happened before here doesn’t mean you can’t believe in that. We had to get them to believe.”

The Quarterfinal run provided proof beyond the belief for the Muskrats, and then the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association added to it all, naming Algonac the preseason No. 1 team in Division 3.

Luckily for Thaler, his team took it in stride.

The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield.“I mean, it was a great feeling, but part of me had some doubts,” Schultz said “We’ve got some younger kids on the team, and I thought that maybe they might look at that and might get complacent, but me and some of the other seniors have done a good job of keeping all of these guys looking forward. We’ve still got one goal, and that’s to finish (with a Finals title).”

While the softball team didn’t enter the season with a No. 1 ranking, the expectations were certainly there, as was a new target on its back.

But bigger than both was motivation following a walk-off loss to Millington in the Semifinal.

“I think it just shows us that in those big games with those types of teams, you can never say never,” said first-year softball coach Natalie Heim, who was an assistant on last year’s team. “You really have to bear down. That Millington team that beat us, they fought hard. But I definitely think it fuels us more to get back.”

The softball program’s rise may have seemed more sudden to those on the outside, but senior Ella Stephenson said it had been bubbling for a while.

“My sophomore year, we had some talent for sure,” she said. “We had a really good season, but not as good as junior and senior year. The class above me was really talented. But they kind of turned the program around in my eighth-grade year, and it kind of kept building from there.”

During Stephenson’s sophomore season, the Muskrats lost a tough District game against Richmond, which went on to win the Division 3 Finals title. Not only are the Blue Devils a common early postseason opponent for the Muskrats, they’re also a conference rival. As is Almont. And Croswell-Lexington. And … It’s a brutal conference.

The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo.So, much like the baseball team, even during the softball team’s historic 2022 season, winning the conference this spring proved to be tougher than making a deep postseason run.

That made Tuesday night’s sweep of North Branch to clinch the BWAC that much sweeter.

“Honestly, it’s a rush of just happiness,” Bommarito said. “We’re all so excited and just can’t believe we did it. We just played game-by-game today, and really took it one pitch, one out at a time.”

Not only has the BWAC prepared the Muskrats for the possibility of another deep postseason run, it helped keep them focused throughout the season.

“I think a lot of teams don’t have that luxury of facing the best competition during the season,” Heim said. “I think it keeps (the Muskrats) not looking too far ahead. We try to have that approach of one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. It helps with having goals that are a little tougher to achieve. Winning our league, it’s tough. It’s not an easy feat. Especially after last year’s success, it would have been easy to look ahead.”

Now, with league titles secured, both teams can focus on their ultimate goals and the postseason that is directly in front of them.

All with the hope that their similarities – on top of the league titles, both teams are 29-2 as of Wednesday, and both have a University of Michigan-bound player (Kasner and Stephenson) – continue through the third weekend of June with matching trips to East Lansing.

“That’d be unreal. That would be so cool,” Stephenson said. “We all have really good friendships on the baseball and softball teams. Our records are identical. We both won our conference. It’s just really cool. I’m really happy for their success, and ours, too.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Algonac pitcher Kenna Bommarito makes her move toward the plate during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal against Millington. (2) Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in. (3) The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield. (4) The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo. (Baseball photos and softball team photo courtesy of the Algonac athletic department.)