Northville, Saline Earn Shot at 1st Title

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 15, 2017

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.”

Click for the full box score.

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.”

Click for the full box score.

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.

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.