Liggett Outlasts Beal City in D4 Classic

June 15, 2013

By Andy Sneddon
Special to Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – An absolute gem of a high school baseball game, and a shame that one team had to come out on the losing end.

That’s sports, and that’s baseball.

Cole Zingas scored on a throwing error in the top of the eighth inning Saturday night, then Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett got a pair of standout defensive plays in the bottom of the inning while holding on to beat Beal City, 3-2, in an oh-so-memorable Division 4 championship game at C.O. Brown Stadium.

“If that’s not the greatest championship game at any level in a long time, I’d like to see one better,” said University Liggett coach Dan Cimini. “The back and forth on both sides, all of our kids fought, scratched and played their hearts out.

“That was the best baseball game I’ve ever been involved in. And I’m not just talking about the play, I’m talking about the hustle and the drive and the will to win and the will not to lose. It was unbelievable.”

It was University Liggett’s second MHSAA crown in three years. The Knights (31-4) were runners-up last season.

Beal City (35-3) was back in the title game after winning championships in 2008 and 2010. The Aggies fell to University Liggett in the Semifinals in 2011.

Beal City left the bases loaded four times through the first seven innings and stranded 14 runners on the day.

Aggies pitcher Ty Rollin took a perfect game into the fifth inning and a no-hitter into the sixth, when Patrick Broder ended his latter bid with a leadoff infield single.

The game was tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh when the Knights got a one-out single from Connor Fannon, a walk to Nathan Gaggin, and a single from Anthony Simon to load the bases. Kevin Allen’s sacrifice fly to center brought home the go-ahead run.

The Aggies tied it in the bottom of the seventh when No. 9 hitter Nicholas Hoogerhyde drew a bases-loaded walk.

Fannon, who had taken over on the mound for University Liggett to start the fifth inning, then struck out Rollin, the Aggies’ leadoff hitter, and they had left the bases loaded for the fourth time.

Still, Beal City had managed to tie the game, setting the stage for the dramatic eighth inning.

Zingas, University Liggett’s No. 9 hitter, led off the top of the eighth with an infield hit. He moved to second on an Adam Fiema bunt, and took third on yet another infield single, this one by Mark Auk.

With Auk on first base, a wild pickoff attempt skipped by first baseman Ryan Tilmann, and Zingas raced home with what turned out to be the winning run.

For the bottom of the eighth Fiema relieved Fannon, University Liggett’s workhorse who went the distance in the Knights’ 1-0 Semifinal win over New Lothrop on Friday.

Fiema struck out the Aggies’ leadoff hitter, and then induced popouts for the final two outs. Both were highlight reel-worthy catches, the first a sliding grab by Auk in shallow centerfield on a ball that looked certain to drop for a hit; the second by catcher Nathan Gaggin. He caught the final out falling backward in foul territory between home plate and the first-base on-deck circle.

Rollin went all eight innings on the mound for Beal City. He allowed six hits, struck out five and walked two. Fannon earned the victory, while Fiema picked up the save.

“I give it to my guys,” Cimini said. “I love those guys. They fight, scratch, claw – they never give up, and they will never give up and that’s how we won this baseball game.”

As proud, Cimini said, as he was of his own team, he was equally proud of – but also sympathetic toward – the Aggies.

“Their coach (Brad Antcliff), he’s one of my best friends in the coach world and I respect him and what he’s done with that program. And I told him neither team deserved to lose this ballgame, and I believe that with all my heart.

“They (Beal City) should be super proud, I’m super proud, and I’m super proud to be able to be able to play against a team and a coach like that.”

Click for a full box score.

PHOTO: (Top) University Liggett pitcher Connor Fannon begins to celebrate after catcher Nathan Gaggin catches the final out of the Division 4 Final. (Middle) Knights shortstop Nicholas Azar dives over teammate Mark Evan Auk after Auk makes a grab during the eighth inning. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

No Runs, No Hits: East Jordan Aces Toss 4 Straight Shutouts, 3 Straight No-Hitters

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 17, 2024

Playing shortstop this year for East Jordan High School admittedly has become rather boring at times.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThere hasn’t been a whole lot of action at what’s usually the busiest spot in the infield — no matter who is playing it.

Junior Eli Burns knows that better than anyone. He is the Red Devils’ regular shortstop. He also pitches.

Ryder Malpass knows what it’s like to play short this season as well – he’s normally in the spot when Burns is on the mound.

But he also has a feel for how little the shortstop does regularly for the Division 4 No. 16 Red Devils from his usual spot at catcher – receiving behind the plate for a pitching staff averaging almost two strikeouts per inning. 

Just recently, East Jordan put together three straight no-hitters and four straight shutouts.

“It’s good,” Burns said of playing short. “When you have confidence with your pitchers you don’t have to worry about the ball being hit to you that much.”

Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. Malpass, a junior, started the shoutout string himself with a 4-0 win over Bellaire last week, when he earned the win throwing 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts while going 2 for 3 at the plate with a double and RBI. Junior Korbyn Russell closed out the game.

Then Burns started the no-hitter run in the second game that night with Bellaire, a 6-0 Red Devils win. Burns had 10 strikeouts and just a single walk allowed. He also tripled in the game.

This week the no-hitter string continued with 1-0 and 2-0 wins over Boyne City. Russell and senior Lucas Stone threw the Red Devils’ third and fourth no-hitters of the season.

Stone threw a perfect game across six innings. He struck out 12 batters on just 70 pitches and also went 2 for 3 with an RBI against the Ramblers. Russell earned the 1-0 win over Boyne City with 5 1/3 no-hit innings behind 11 strikeouts and with just a lone walk allowed. Stone followed Russell to pick up the save for the Red Devils, now 13-9-1 overall on the season and 6-4 in Lake Michigan Conference play.  

Russell is 6-2 on the season with two saves. Going into Thursday’s game with Charlevoix, he had struck out 92 batters over 42 innings while compiling a 0.86 ERA. Stone is 5-2. Before suffering his second loss of the season to the Rayders, his ERA was 1.17 and he had fanned 38 in 36 innings of work. Burns has racked up 17 strikeouts so far in just over 14 innings.

“It’s pretty special to be a part of something not many teams can do,” Russell said. “We have a special group of pitchers to get the job done.”

Stone credits the Red Devils’ defensive play for the pitching staff’s success.

“Our defense has helped the pitching a lot because they don’t make a lot of errors,” Stone said.  “It makes it a lot easier when you know they are going to make plays behind you.”

Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch.East Jordan came into this week beginning to approach the state records for consecutive shutout innings and games. That ended yesterday in twin bill losses to Division 3 No. 11 Charlevoix. But the Red Devils still can chase the national record of nine no-hit games in a season. (No official record is kept for no-hitters by a Michigan high school team in a season.)

There is also no known record of any East Jordan team racking up three no-hitter wins in a row.

“I don’t think there’s been any stretch with three no-hitters in a row, so that is pretty special,” noted East Jordan coach Adam Grybauskas. “We’re kind of picking up where things were last year and trying to build on last year’s success and make it even better this year.”

The Red Devils captured a Division 4 District championship in 2023 and then a 9-6 Regional Semifinal win over Gaylord St. Mary. The season came to an end in the Regional Final with a 2-0 loss to Painsdale Jeffers.

Russel, Stones and Burns were on the pitching staff last year as East Jordan made that run. The Red Devils will host the District tournament this year as familiar opponents Bellaire, Central Lake and Ellsworth will vie to stop East Jordan’s attempt at repeating as champion. The doubleheader loss to undefeated Charlevoix ended the Red Devils’ hopes of sharing the LMC title with the Rayders.

“I think we’ve played a little bit better competition this year,’ Grybauskas said.  “Our focus this year is taking each doubleheader at a time, and try to get better each week.

“It’s really been game by game and week to week,” he continued. “You’re always looking to do better than last year so obviously that will be something we’ll talk about in the future.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) East Jordan’s Lucas Stone winds up during a game. (Middle) Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. (Below) Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch. (Photos courtesy of the East Jordan athletic department.)