Plymouth Christian Academy, Beal City Match Shutouts To Advance in D4

By Tim Robinson
Special for

June 16, 2023

EAST LANSING — For Beal City and Plymouth Christian Academy, a fast start proved key to victory in Friday’s Division 4 Semifinals at McLane Stadium.

Plymouth Christian (34-7) earned its first Finals berth with an 8-0 win over Rudyard, while Beal City (30-8) reached the championship game for the second year in a row with an 8-0 win over Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, 8-0.

The Eagles and Aggies will play for the Division 4 title at 5 p.m. Saturday.

In both games, the winning team scored the only run it would need in the first inning. 

For Plymouth Christian, it came on a triple by starting pitcher Jordan Scott.

“It was a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Scott said. ”You never know going into a game if you’re going to get a hit or not, and to get that first hit lifted that weight.”

Scott let his arm do the rest, scattering seven hits while striking out five with no walks. 

A Beal City hitter steps back to avoid an inside pitch.The Eagles also took advantage of four Rudyard errors and a passed ball that led to a run. 

“Errors kind of feed on each other sometimes,” Plymouth Christian coach Joe Bottorff said. “All of our batters are good base runners, even though it didn’t look like it at times. We have aggressive baserunners, and we can get around the bases. We’ve got good speed.”

The Eagles had a balanced attack, too, scattering 10 hits among seven players, led by Micah Lavigne, who had a double while going 3-for-4. 

After Scott gave PCA a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Eagles scored twice in the second and put the game out of reach with four runs in the fourth. 

Asked for a key to the Eagles’ success, Bottorff said “eight seniors,” before stopping to gather his emotions.

Aiden Bickel, who was the starting pitcher for Rudyard, had two hits for the Bulldogs. 

Rudyard (19-20) went into the game on a five-game winning streak, all of those victories coming during the postseason, and fell short in its bid to become the first team from the Upper Peninsula to play for a state title since Escanaba reached the 2006 Division 2 Final.

Click for the box score.

Beal City 8, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep 0

For Beal City, the expectations – and results – have been very different. 

“Our goal every year is to play the last game of the season, in East Lansing, and we did that,” Aggies coach Brad Antcliff said. 

In fact, the Aggies are back in the Final for the second year in a row after falling to Riverview Gabriel Richard 4-3 in last season’s championship game. 

The Aggies’ Josh Wilson delivers a pitch during his shutout. Antcliff, who is in the first year of his second stint as Aggies coach, led the team to titles in 2009 and 2010 and got them back to the Final in 2013 and 2014.

Playing the first Division 4 Semifinal, Beal City (30-8) got off to an early start. With one out, Owen McKenny singled then scored on a double by Jack Fussman to give starting pitcher Josh Wilson the only run he would need.

The Aggies added two runs in the fourth inning on a single by Cayden Smith and a two-base error and put it out of reach when Smith doubled to drive in three runs in the sixth. Beal City added two more runs in the seventh.

Meanwhile, Hackett was handcuffed at the plate.

“All I needed to do was throw strikes,” said Wilson, who threw just 87 pitches in holding the Irish (24-15-1) to three hits while walking one and striking out five. “My teammates made great plays behind me. I just trusted my stuff, and my coaches trusted me.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Plymouth Christian Academy’s Micah Lavigne lays out in pursuit of a drive to center field Thursday. (Middle) A Beal City hitter steps back to avoid an inside pitch. (Below) The Aggies’ Josh Wilson delivers a pitch during his shutout. (Photos by John Castine/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.