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.

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.