Liggett Scores 2nd Title in 3 Seasons

June 14, 2014

By Andy Sneddon
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Hits? Who needs hits?

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett had just three hits Saturday. But it used just about every other conceivable way to reach base, move runners along, and get them home in downing Decatur, 9-0, in the MHSAA Division 3 Final at McLane Baseball Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.

It was the second straight title for the Knights (25-8), who won Division 4 crowns in 2011 and 2013. They were runners-up in Division 4 in 2012.

“So proud of the guys, so proud of the program,” said Dan Cimini, who is in his 11th year as Liggett’s coach. “We just keep staying confident and expecting to win every time we step on the baseball field. Doesn’t matter what division we’re in, that’s basically been our motto here.”

Freshman Gehrig Anglin tossed a two-hitter for the complete-game victory. He struck out four and walked three. He stranded two base runners in the first inning and left them loaded with Raiders in the second, then settled in and set down 16 of the last 18 batters he faced.

Joby Kawaski singled in the first inning and Dale Mann singled in the fourth for Decatur’s only hits.

“He didn’t have his best stuff,” Cimini said of Anglin. “He didn’t have his good curve ball, and he struggled with his control early. Our defense got us out of it, and then he settled down.”

A second-inning visit to the mound did the trick, Cimini said.

“I said, ‘Listen, I’m not going to sugar-coat it; if you don’t get this kid out, I’m taking you out,’” Cimini said. “As soon as I said that he focused like nobody’s business. He’s a 14-year-old, but he plays like a junior or senior. He’s been our ace all year. He did not have his best stuff all day. He struggled with his curveball, and his fastball was kind of all over the place.

“He may not say it, but I think he was a little nervous at the beginning.”

Decatur’s last legitimate chance came when it left the bases loaded in the second inning. After that, it was all Liggett, but the Raiders’ lackluster defense played a major role.

Liggett used a hit batsman, a single, an error and a sacrifice fly to seize a 2-0 lead in the third, then blew the game open with a seven-run fifth during which the Knights got just two hits – RBI singles by Adam Fiema and Anthony Simon.

Liggett’s turn at bat in the fifth inning included three walks, three errors, a hit batsman and a suicide squeeze.

Kawaski, Decatur's starter, did not survive the fifth and took the loss. He was charged with nine runs, just two of which were earned. He walked five and struck out six. Matthew Saylor finished up for the Raiders (24-7).

“He didn’t pitch terrible in my opinion,” Decatur coach Ben Botti said. “You know, we make a couple plays – did they get an earned run today? I don’t think they did. I mean, we crushed the ball today and got nothing to show for it. Then we turn around and kick (the ball) around.

“The shortstop boots two, we drop one in center – that kid hasn’t dropped one all year; we drop one at first base. We had another error in there somewhere. When you’ve got to pitch over all that kind of stuff, it’s tough to do.

“We’ve been making those plays in the tournament. And today we didn’t make any of them.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) University Liggett scored two runs in the third inning and seven in the fifth to build a comfortable lead in the Division 3 Final. (Middle) The Knights celebrated their second title in three seasons. 

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.)