Like Old Times But Also New, Beal City Closes Baseball Finals as Champion

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 17, 2023

EAST LANSING – The 2023 season felt like old times and the definition of turning back the clock for Brad Antcliff.

The Beal City baseball head coach from 2007-16, Antcliff returned before the start of this season, and it felt like he never left.

“It did,” Antcliff said. “But I talked to my players about what I needed to do different. It’s their team, and I’m following them.”

Also like old times, Antcliff followed his team to a state championship. 

Beal City captured its fifth with a 2-1 win over Plymouth Christian Academy in the Division 4 Final at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium, which also finished the MHSAA's 2022-23 school sports year.

Jake Gauthier slides into second for a stolen base just ahead of the tag by PCA’s Jordan Scott (6).It was the third title as coach for Antcliff, who also guided Beal City to crowns in 2009 and 2010.

“The expectations they met today, it’s hard,” Antcliff said. “It’s hard to get here, and it’s really hard to win it. They met every expectation that we put in front of them this year.”

In what was a well-pitched game between Beal City junior Cayden Smith and Plymouth Christian sophomore Tyler Scott, it was a couple of defensive miscues by PCA in the bottom of the sixth inning that were the difference. 

Following a flyout and a single by Beal City junior Jake Gauthier, freshman Blake Walcutt singled. A throwing error put runners on first and second base with one out, and then another throwing error plated Walcutt to give Beal City a 2-1 lead. 

The Aggies had the bases loaded with one out, but couldn’t tack on any insurance runs. That didn’t matter, as Beal City (31-8) finished off Plymouth Christian with a 1-2-3 seventh. 

Smith got the first out of the seventh inning on a strikeout, but had to be pulled after reaching the 105-pitch limit. Walcutt came in and got the final two outs to preserve the win. 

Smith struck out 11, walked none and allowed just three hits in 6 1/3 innings of work. 

Cayden Smith begins to unload a pitch during his winning performance.“My fastball was really there,” Smith said. “My curveball was there. My slider was kind of off. It was down and away and sometimes high. I couldn’t find it. But the curve ball was working, and the fastball was there too.”

Similar to Grand Rapids Christian in the Division 2 title game, Beal City avenged a loss in last year’s Final. 

“Since we lost that game, it was our new goal to come and get this one,” Smith said. 

After three scoreless innings, Plymouth Christian broke through in the top of the fourth, taking a 1-0 lead on a 2-out RBI single by Scott. 

Beal City answered in the bottom half of the fourth inning, tying the game at 1-1 when a run scored on a 2-out error that would have ended the inning. 

The Aggies had a golden opportunity in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with two outs, but a groundout ended the threat. 

Scott allowed just four hits, struck out four and walked one in six innings of work for Plymouth Christian (34-8). 

While disappointed with the result, Eagles head coach Joe Bottorff is excited for the future of his program despite graduating eight seniors.

“I think everyone knows now that we belong here,” Bottorff said. “We had a JV team loaded with freshman travel players, so we have some guys coming through that are going to be really good. We have a pipeline built where we are going to reload rather than rebuild.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Beal City’s players raise their championship trophy Saturday at McLane Stadium. (Middle) Jake Gauthier slides into second for a stolen base just ahead of the tag by PCA’s Jordan Scott (6).  (Below) Cayden Smith begins to unload a pitch during his winning performance. (Photos by John Castine/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)