Liggett, GR Christian Zero Out Opponents, Zero In on Championship Day

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 16, 2023

EAST LANSING – Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett senior pitcher Joey Randazzo knew the magnitude of the opposing lineup and opposing pitcher.

But he insisted there wasn’t extra pressure on him going into a Division 2 Semifinal against 2022 champion Ada Forest Hills Eastern.

“My goal is never to put up zeroes,” Randazzo said. “My goal is to pound the zone and let my defense work. My job is just to pound the zone.”

Randazzo did better than that. 

He pounded the zone and also happened to put up zeroes, tossing a 5-hit shutout to lead Liggett to a 2-0 win over Forest Hills Eastern in what was the definition of a pitchers’ duel. 

Liggett, which won the Division 3 title two years ago, will go for its seventh Finals championship at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Grand Rapids Christian.

A Liggett player lets out a yell during his team's win.The most dominant players all game were Randazzo and Forest Hills Eastern senior Jacob Pallo, who entered the game with a 0.49 ERA and allowed only one hit through his first five innings of work. 

After having only one runner get to second base over the first five innings, Liggett finally mounted what turned out to be the deciding rally in the bottom of the sixth. 

A single by Randazzo and a double by junior Reggie Sharpe set the table with two outs for senior Oliver Service. On a 3-1 count, Service hit a tapper in front of the plate that was fielded by Pallo, who had to hurry his throw to first to get the speedy Service.

The throw got past the first baseman, allowing Randazzo and Sharpe to score. 

In the top of the seventh, Randazzo gave up a leadoff single to Pallo, but a double play and a popout ended the game. 

Pallo allowed just three hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts in what also was a terrific performance.

“He pounds the zone, and he does what I ask him to do,” Liggett head coach Dan Cimini said of Randazzo. “He throws off-speed and moves the ball all over the place. He’s got like 12 different fastballs. He’s just a gamer.” 

There will be a new champion in Division 2 with Forest Hills Eastern dethroned, but it was still quite a run for the Hawks over the last two years to win a title and get back to the Semifinal round. 

“Just the growth throughout the season to get to this point was tremendous,” Forest Hills Eastern head coach Ian Hearn said. “Hats off to Randazzo. He mixed it up really well and kept us off balance.” 

Click for the box score.

Grand Rapids Christian 4, Flint Powers Catholic 0

It was deja vu for Grand Rapids Christian and senior pitcher Kyle Remington.

Last year, Remington was the winning pitcher in a Division 2 Semifinal, allowing just one run in a complete-game performance.

A year later it was pretty much a duplicate performance, except this time Remington didn’t allow any runs, tossing a 7-hit shutout to lead Grand Rapids Christian past Flint Powers. 

Now, the Eagles hope it won’t be deja vu Saturday, when it will try to not repeat the loss in last year’s championship game. 

 Grand Rapids Christian’s Josh Winkle (12) attempts to race home in front of a play.“I understand how difficult the road is getting here,” Grand Rapids Christian head coach Brent Gates said. “We’ve had a goal from day one to get back here and finish the job. We’re one away now.” 

The Eagles (35-5) earned another opportunity thanks in large part to Remington, who struck out seven and walked one. 

Remington’s biggest moment came in the bottom of the first inning, when he got out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam with a strikeout.

“It was pretty big not to give up any runs in a bases-loaded jam,” Remington said. “I think it was a slider. I can’t really remember, but it was pretty huge.”

Grand Rapids Christian opened the scoring in the top of the second inning, scoring three runs on three hits and an error.

Cam Seth plated one run on a fielder’s choice, and then senior Isaac Hubka hit a single to center that scored two more runs. 

In the bottom of the third inning, Powers had runners on first and second with one out, but following a single to center by senior Jack Dawley, a perfect relay to home by Grand Rapids Christian cut down the Powers’ baserunner at the plate. 

Powers couldn’t get a 2-out hit, and the game remained 3-0. 

In the top of the fourth inning, the Eagles made it 4-0 on an RBI single by junior Parker Seth. 

Powers (33-9-2) was making its first appearance in a Semifinal since 1984. 

“They played hard all the way to the end,” said Powers’ Tom Dutkowski, who completed his 41st year as head coach. “I don’t feel like we lost so much as we got beat by a team that played a little bit better than us. They had a little more timely hitting and made a couple of plays that were really outstanding. It was a well-played game by a very experienced Grand Rapids Christian team.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS (Top) University Liggett catcher Oliver Service lays out to get to a foul ball Friday at McLane Stadium. (Middle) A Liggett player lets out a yell during his team's win. (Below) Grand Rapids Christian’s Josh Winkle (12) attempts to race home in front of a play. (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.