Northville Emerges from Power-Packed Matchup with 1st Diamond Title

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING — Last summer, Dan Cimini decided it was time to move on and “do something different” after leading Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett to five MHSAA Finals titles since 2011. 

Originally though, those plans to find something different did not include Northville High School.

“Windermere Prep,” said Cimini, referring to a school in Windermere, Fla. “I was going to go to Windermere Prep. I was there for a couple of days and some stuff happened I don’t want to get into. I didn’t want to stay there. I didn’t feel comfortable.”

So after leaving Florida last August, Cimini interviewed for the vacant Northville job after longtime head coach John Kostrzewa retired. Awaiting was a potential roster including 16 seniors and multiple with college futures, including anticipated high-round draft selection Dante Nori.

“I came back and interviewed for this job, got it, and the rest is history,” Cimini said. 

Indeed, Saturday’s Division 1 MHSAA Baseball Final was history for Northville.

Mustangs pitcher Caden Besco makes his move toward the plate.For the first time, Northville is a state champion in baseball following a 2-1 win over top-ranked Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice in what was a tightly-contested pitchers’ duel where a couple of defensive miscues were the difference. 

Northville (32-7), No. 4 heading into the postseason, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning when junior Connor Eaton doubled and then scored on a two-base throwing error by Brother Rice. 

The Mustangs then plated a run with two outs on another throwing error by Brother Rice to take a 2-0 lead. 

The Warriors answered in the bottom of the third inning, cutting Northville’s lead to 2-1 on an RBI single with two outs by senior Owen Turner, one of several Rice standouts who also will continue playing at the college level.

But that ended up being all the scoring. 

In the fourth inning, Brother Rice loaded the bases with two outs, but Northville senior reliever Caden Besco ended the threat by inducing a flyout to left field. 

Besco then threw a scoreless fifth inning before Brother Rice put on the leadoff man in the sixth following an error.

Brother Rice senior Tristan Cane hit a hard line drive up the middle, but Besco snagged it and picked the runner off first base for a double play.

After finishing off the sixth inning, Besco retired the first two batters in the seventh before Brother Rice leadoff man Cash Van Ameyde singled up the middle.

Dante Nori takes a powerful swing as Brother Rice catcher Owen Turner awaits the pitch.Besco then ended the game by striking out Brother Rice’s No. 2 hitter, blowing a fastball by him to start the Northville celebration.

“A big lefty. Super scary and he’s obviously a phenomenal hitter. I just went back to my bread and butter — my fastball. That’s what I’ve been going to all year and all playoffs,” Besco said. “I put it in a really good spot high and away.” 

Northville started senior Evan Deak, who went 3 2/3 innings before Besco took things from there, allowing just two base runners and striking out four in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

Brother Rice also got outstanding pitching out of the tandem of sophomore lefty Cole Duhaime and senior righty reliever Chase Van Ameyde. Duhaime allowed four hits, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter in six innings of work, while Van Ameyde struck out two batters in a dominant seventh inning of relief.

The Warriors finished 44-2.

“You give up two unearned runs, it’s going to be hard to overcome when you are playing a team like that,” Brother Rice head coach Bob Riker said. “It was a very competitive game. You give up two unearned, it’s hard to come back from that. We scrapped and did the best we could.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Northville hoists its championship trophy Saturday at Old College Field. (Middle) Mustangs pitcher Caden Besco makes his move toward the plate. (Below) Dante Nori takes a powerful swing as Brother Rice catcher Owen Turner awaits the pitch.