Parks Thrives on Mound & at Plate to Help Deliver Forest Hills Eastern's 1st Title

By Tim Robinson
Special for

June 18, 2022

EAST LANSING – Evan Parks wasn't nervous before or during Saturday's Division 2 championship game at McLane Stadium.

Not while he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and not while going 3-for-3 with an RBI at the plate. 

After his Ada Forest Hills Eastern team won its first baseball Finals title, defeating Grand Rapids Christian 3-0, it was a different story.

“It's starting to set in now,” he said with a nervous laugh.

Parks held Grand Rapids Christian to one hit, an infield single by Nathan Hedlund, walked three and struck out nine.

"With him on the mound, him at the plate, him in the field, we always feel very, very comfortable," Hawks coach Ian Hearn said. "Our motto all year has been 'Team,' be servants for one another and serve one another."

Grand Rapids Christian pitcher Camden Seth had a good outing, scattering 10 hits while strong defense kept Forest Hills Eastern from causing any more damage.

"They’re very talented," Hearn said. "They have a lot of very good baseball players, and coach (Brent) Gates does a really nice job. They kept us in check."

Grand Rapids Christian/Forest Hills Eastern baseballParks drove in the only run the Hawks would need in the third inning. With two out, Caleb Kuiper singled and scored on a double by Parks off the fence in right field. 

The Hawks added single runs in the fourth inning on a groundout by Max Ferrick, and in the fifth inning on a single by Leo Hearn.

“Hats off to them,” Gates said. “Their pitcher did a great job on the mound. We battled. We competed. We just came up short.”

The Hawks finished 39-4 after a 25-0 start.

“We had amazing chemistry,” Hearn said. “Right out of the gate, they competed well. We knew we were a pretty good team. I’m super proud of them and super proud of the way they handled themselves all season long.”

Parks, for his part, stayed focused, admitting he didn’t know he had no-hitter until the fifth inning. 

“I just threw strikers,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. That’s how you get outs. We worked real hard all summer, all fall, all winter, even all spring and we finally got it done.”

Forest Hills Eastern’s work came to a close when Parks induced a game-ending double play.

There is no way to describe it,” Parks said of his reaction to the final out. “It means all the world when you see the ball down, your defense is playing for you. It means all the world when you see the play finally finish, and it's done.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ada Forest Hills Eastern raises its championship trophy Saturday at Old College Field. (Middle) A Hawks runner slides into third base as Grand Rapids Christian’s Nathan Hedlund (5) anticipates the throw.

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.