By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
HOLLAND – The Holland Christian baseball team doesn’t want to reflect too much on the accomplishments of last year.
While they included winning the program’s first Division 2 championship last spring, it’s a new season with a fresh cast of experienced and youthful players.
“Last year was great, and it was a special season for sure, but a lot of people keep referring to it,” Maroons coach Jim Caserta said. “We want to use that as confidence, but at the same time this team hasn’t done anything yet so we have to make our own team and develop as this year’s team. We’re trying to compete every day, not worry about a state championship.”
Holland Christian went 36-6 last year and capped the season with an 8-5 win over Linden in the Division 2 Final.
The Maroons graduated six seniors, including the talented battery of pitcher Mike Mokma, now playing at Michigan State, and catcher David Williams, now at Xavier.
The cupboard, however, isn’t bare. Nine seniors are back, as well as a few underclassmen who were key components to last year’s success.
“Several guys contributed to last year’s success and we’re excited about that,” Caserta said. “This year is a totally different team. It’s a different year, and the guys we have now haven’t been in this leadership position yet, so we’re going to be expecting them to step up and get the job done and really come through when needed. It will be exciting to see what kind of mark this group leaves in our program as well.”
Senior pitcher Jack Huisman is one of several key starters back. He understands the hurdles that come with being reigning champions.
“The target on our back is pretty big and obviously people know we won the state championship last year,” said Huisman, who has signed with Western Michigan. “This is a new year, and there are different guys that are going to have to step up. The biggest thing for us is to not dwell on the past. We have to keep looking forward and keep playing one game at a time, and see where that leads us.”
Caserta said coming off an MHSAA-championship season can be looked upon in a couple different ways.
“It’s a little bit of a two-edged sword,” he said. “It does give our team motivation to come back from, but on the other end everybody you play is going to be ready for you. We try to make that into a positive because that keeps us sharp. We have to be ready to play every time.”
Other key returnees include seniors Coby Curtiss (SS), Brady Brower (2B), Christian Koele (OF), Spencer Brewer (Pitcher) and Sam Wierda (OF).
Sophomore pitcher Chris Mokma provided significant contributions as a freshman.
“I think we have a good potential,” Curtiss said. “We have some young guys who are getting better, and every guy will have to play their role and play their best to have another shot at a title.
“Winning a state title was our goal last year, and it’s our goal this year, but we know how hard it is and how hard we have to work. We’ve been working for it in the offseason again.”
Holland Christian hopes to rely on its pitching, a staple of last year’s team.
“We have good depth this year in our pitching, but may not be at the same individual level with a couple guys so they all need to contribute,” Caserta said. “We won’t have one or two guys to turn to all the time. We’ll do it a little differently than last year.”
The biggest question mark hinges on the Maroons’ ability to score runs.
“A lot of guys batted down in the order a little but have to be the main guys this year,” Caserta said. “We’re unproven offensively, and when we get in pressure situations we will have to count on those guys this year.”
The Maroons mirrored last year’s club in terms of resiliency in only the second game of the season.
They trailed 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs before rallying for a 4-3 win over Rockford.
“Just like last year, we always fought and found a way to win,” Curtiss said. “I think we have a little bit of that in us again this year. If we’re down, we’re always going to fight to come back.”
Although Caserta doesn’t want to make a habit of late-inning comebacks, he said it was a good early sign of the team’s attitude.
“I felt good about the result and how we hung in there at the end,” he said. “Those aren’t games you’re going to win all the time, but our guys didn’t give up, and in a clutch situation we were able to get a couple key hits. We did some really good things, and I give them credit for competing and coming back. It’s encouraging to see that we kept plugging away.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Holland Christian’s Coby Curtiss follows one of his three hits during last season’s Division 2 Final into left field. (Middle) This season’s Maroons are a mix of veterans and newcomers, with some key players back from last season’s championship team.
Standish-Sterling’s run to the 2022 Division 3 Semifinals was driven in part by a record-setting offense, including a pair of senior standouts who posted single-season and career highlights.
The Panthers made the team record book in four categories, topped by a record 28 triples over 42 games. They also were added for 371 RBI (fourth all-time), 425 runs (12th) and 414 hits.
Cole Prout tied the MHSAA record for runs scored in one season with 84 and set the record with 27 career triples over three seasons (with 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). His 13 triples in 2022 tied for third on that list, while Chase Raymond’s 10 tied for 11th. Prout also tied for 12th all-time with 182 career runs, while Raymond is eighth on the single-season RBI list with 77 over 42 games in 2022 and earned a career RBI entry with 140.
Prout plays now at Central Michigan, and Raymond is playing at Saginaw Valley State.
See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA baseball record book:
Alden Stefanovski played a major role in Whitmore Lake reaching the 2022 Division 4 Semifinals. The senior also made the record book with 20 doubles over 33 games, the first from his school to earn a listing. He was joined in 2023 in the records by senior Alex Di Dio, who hit nine triples over 29 games and also three home runs in one game April 13 against Adrian Madison. Di Dio also was added for 13 triples and a .460 average for his three-season career, and he’s continuing at Kalamazoo College.
Trenton senior Jason Marshall was nearly unstoppable on the base paths during the 2022 season – and perfect stealing on them. He made the record book with 49 steals in 49 attempts, and also for seven triples over 35 games. He’s playing football at Eastern Michigan.
Trent Hagenbach finished his Saginaw Valley Lutheran career in 2022 tied for 11th on the career triples list with 16 despite not having a 2020 season and hitting all of them over the final two. He also made the records for his seven as a junior and nine as a senior.
Dansville had 10 pitchers contribute to its 388 strikeouts over 38 games during the 2022 season, a total which placed the Aggies second all-time. Tucker Mosley paced the team with 137 strikeouts.
Parchment’s Aaron Jasiak finished his three-season varsity career with seven record book entries, including one of the most impressive winning streaks all-time. He won all 26 pitching starts over his career, which didn’t start until his sophomore season because of the COVID-related cancelation of 2020. His winning streak is the seventh longest in MHSAA history, and his 0.87 ERA ranks 11th. He also made career lists with 163 runs scored, 112 stolen bases and a .460 batting average over 103 games, and his 60 steals over 38 games this spring rank 10th. He’s continuing at Hillsdale College.
Bay City Western finished 42-2 in winning the Division 1 championship in 2013, ranking sixth for most wins in a baseball season. The Warriors also tied the record with 21 shutouts, and their 1.02 ERA ranks fifth all-time.
Grandville Calvin Christian senior Blake Pettijohn struck out 20 batters in a 7-0 win over Belding on May 11, which tied for seventh-most for a seven-inning game. He’s continuing at Hope College.
Grant’s Oakley Obenauf made the single-season stolen bases list in the spring with 45 over 29 games – and was a major contributor as his team made the single-game list multiple times. He had a combined eight steals over two games as Grant swiped 13 and 11 bases during halves of a doubleheader May 11. Obenauf is a senior this school year.
Paw Paw reached the team record book this past spring after being hit by 50 pitches over 30 games. Seven players were hit by at least five pitches, with the team leader totaling 10.
Lansing Eastern earned its first record book entries from a pair of graduating seniors this spring. Dominic Wilson capped his three-season varsity career with 134 stolen bases, which rank 10th. He swiped a career-high 51 as a senior. Teammate Matthew Stevenson made the career batting average list at .472 despite getting only eight at bats as a sophomore because of an injury.
Benzie Central’s Wyatt Noffsinger enjoyed a memorable run to nearly finish off his high school career, throwing consecutive no-hitters against Buckley on May 24 and then Manton on June 3.
Okemos then-junior Caleb Bonemer earned his first record book entry with three home runs June 3 against Grand Ledge as his team clinched a Division 1 District title. Bonemer has committed to sign with Virginia.
After 45 years, Flint Southwestern’s Ruben Luna and Risto Nicevski were added for their accomplishments on the 1978 Class A championship team. Luna made the wins list with a record of 14-0 and the ERA list with a 0.71, and Nicevski made the ERA list with a 0.72. Both went on to play at Michigan State.
East Lansing’s Sam Busch enjoyed a career day on April 12, 2019, when he hit three home runs in consecutive at bats against Ionia. A junior that season, he’s now playing at Michigan State.
Powers North Central’s Adrian Mercier enjoyed a record-worthy junior season this spring. He hit .619 over 32 games, ranking 10th all-time for a single season.
Whitehall senior Cayden Ritchie chased and nearly caught the single-season stolen base record in 2021, when he tied for second with 72 steals over 36 games. He also made the single-game steals list five times, twice with a high of six.
Aidan Liedeke capped his Brighton Charyl Stockwell career in the spring with some of the most impressive strikeout numbers in state history. Already listed for averaging 15.41 strikeouts per game as a junior in 2022, he averaged 14.92 Ks per game this spring to finish his three-season career at 15 strikeouts per game. He posted a 0.88 ERA in the spring as well to finish with a career 1.52. He’s playing at Kalamazoo College.
Killian Bies finished his Marshall three-season career in the spring among leaders all-time for getting hit by pitches. He already had tied for sixth as a sophomore in 2021 with 22 HBPs, and with 14 more both his junior and senior seasons he finished with 50 to rank fifth on that list. He’s continuing at Cornerstone.
PHOTO Standish-Sterling's Cole Prout (8) readies for a pitch during his team's 2022 Division 3 Semifinal.