EAST LANSING – Connor Ziparo kept things simple for Northville on Thursday.
Chances are good that things will become more complicated for the Mustangs on Saturday.
Ziparo, a senior lefthander, threw strikes and let his teammates do the rest as Northville defeated Grand Haven, 9-1, in a Division 1 Semifinal at McLane Stadium on the Michigan State campus.
For Northville (30-10), Saturday’s Final will be a first.
It couldn’t be more different for Saline, recently ranked No. 12 nationally by USA Today. The Hornets disposed of their Semifinal opponent, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, in similar fashion 12-0, but what awaits Saline is far different.
The Hornets (38-3) will be making their sixth Final appearance at 9 a.m. Saturday, seeking their first title.
“It’s a big game for us; it’s big for Northville,” Saline coach Scott Theisen said. “It’s not any bigger than the other five.”
The Mustangs, making their first Semifinal appearance since 1972, played as if they’d been here many times.
Ziparo (7-2) was never in seriously trouble. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out five. Pitching on four days rest, Ziparo found his comfort zone.
“I was in my normal routine,” he said. “My fastball was my go-to pitch.
“I’ve been all around the country playing, and this is the biggest game of my life. We’re one of the last four teams.”
Ziparo allowed a leadoff double to Ryan Mattson, hit a batter three batters later but enticed the next hitter to fly out to center to end the rally. The next time the Buccaneers had two base runners in an inning was the seventh, when they scored an unearned run.
Third baseman Jake Moody’s two-run single in the first inning was all the support Ziparo needed. Christian Williams had an RBI single in the second to give Northville a 3-0 lead, and the Mustangs broke open the game by scoring three in the fifth inning.
“It was an outside changeup,” Moody said of his first-inning single. “I just went to right field with it. We’ve been pitching well all season. We’ve finally got the bats going late in the season.”
Northville had nine hits, two by Kevin Morrissey and Billy Flohr. Morrissey and Michael Lionas each scored two runs.
Northville also stole three bases and had two sacrifices.
The Mustangs played small ball at times, a part of the game coach John Kostrzewa stresses.
“We were able to execute some bunts and got some base hits out of them, too,” he said. “It took us awhile to figure out our lineup (this season). Once we figured it out, we started to hit. It seems to have helped out our pitching, too, taking some pressure off.”
Grand Haven (24-16) had its best season by far. The Buccaneers had never won a Regional title until this season and began the tournament at 18-15. They went on to win a number of close games during the playoffs, and that fact kept coach Michael Hansen hopeful for a comeback.
“Even when it was 3-0, I thought if we could get a key hit or something we’d be there,” he said. “It didn’t happen. When you get a lefthander (Ziparo) like that, he’s gritty. You don’t have to throw 90 mph to be effective.”
Saline 12, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 0
Saline jumped on University Liggett starter Anthony George with five runs on five hits in the first inning and didn’t let up. Five players had two or more hits, with catcher Sean O’Keefe leading the way with three hits and four RBI.
“We had a good approach at the plate,” Theisen said. “We made some contact. When your pitcher goes out there with a five-run lead, it makes things easier.”
Cole Daniels went the first four innings and gave up one hit, one walk, and he struck out three. Paul Kiyabu went the final inning and gave up one hit.
“(Daniels) didn’t have his best stuff, but he pounded the strike zone,” O’Keefe said. “It’s just what Cole does.
“We were lucky today. We’ve just got to keep it up. (The Final) is not different than any other game. We’ve seen (Northville) before. We know what to do.”
The teams split a doubleheader during the regular season.
Daniels said his arm was a tad sore, and that kept his velocity down.
“I did hit my spots,” he said. “And I got my curveball going after a while.”
It was a remarkable run for University Liggett (33-5). The Knight set a school record for wins a season after capturing the Division 3 title. Coach Dan Cimini petitioned the MHSAA to move up to Division 1 (for two seasons) and his team proved its worth defeating Grosse Pointe North (7-2) in a District Final and the best team in Macomb County, Sterling Heights Stevenson, 6-0, in a Quarterfinal.
“This is a magical season,” he said. “Yeah, (today) is a downer. It’s a bummer. But to take this team to the final four, with just 13 players, moving up two divisions is tremendous. Saline just hit the cover off of the ball. They hit line drives everywhere.”
PHOTOS: (Top) A Northville runner starts his slide into home while Grand Haven catcher Max Schweikert readies to tag him. (Middle) A Saline runner begins to round third base against University Liggett.
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.