Practicing, Playing Like Potential Champs

June 14, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Richmond baseball coach Scott Evans has been something of a drill sergeant during his two seasons running the program, junior Austin Harvey said.

But that’s exactly what the Blue Devils needed to reach a game they’d never played in before.

Richmond played in its first MHSAA Semifinal on Friday at Bailey Park. And thanks to a 3-2 win over Milan, the Blue Devils now will face reigning champion Grand Rapids Christian with a championship on the line.

“These juniors and seniors are a bunch of overachievers, and they were tired of the status quo,” Evans said. “They decided to hit the weight room, decided they wanted something better. They set goals and worked for it.

“When you get a group of kids, a bunch of teenagers, to believe in you and do what you ask them to do, go through a wall for you, then you can overachieve. That’s what’s going on here.”

Evans is a 1986 Richmond grad who went on to play at Eastern Michigan University and then coached at Clinton Township Clintondale for 16 seasons before coming home last spring.

By calling his players overachievers, Evans was not saying they lacked in talent. Far from it. Richmond (34-4) has plenty of ability. But it began to transform into more than potential last season as the Blue Devils began to see they could compete with highly-regarded opponents.

“Practice like we play. That’s what we always say,” Harvey said.

And that’s put this team in position to create school history.

Evans’ practices are intense to put his players in game-like situations. Drills are hard, but beneficial. “Coach likes to make things tough,” Harvey said. “He changed practices, and that changed the way we play.”

Richmond had to be on point Friday against Milan, which also was hoping to make its first Final.

The teams combined for only 12 hits, and after taking a second-inning lead Richmond faced a 1-1 deadlock heading into the bottom of the sixth.

Harvey led off with a single, stole second base and scored on a single by Evan Kratt. Junior Nick Ottenbacher, who pinch-ran for Kratt, also scored – which would prove necessary as Milan scored once in the top of the seventh inning before stranding two runners to end the game.

Kratt and senior Mitchell Ward both had two hits for Richmond, and Ward gave up only one run in six innings pitched.

Sophomore Thomas Lindeman was 2-for-4 for Milan (26-13) and threw four innings of one-run ball.

Grand Rapids Christian 1, Remus Chippewa Hills 0

The Eagles continued their run at a repeat championship thanks in large part to senior pitcher Alex VanDeVusse.

One of the heroes of Grand Rapids Christian’s Division 3 football championship in the fall, the quarterback-now-pitcher tossed a two-hit shutout and struck out 11.

He also was 2-for-3 from the lead-off spot and drove in senior rightfielder Tyler Davison in the fourth inning for the game’s only run.

The Eagles improved to 18-15 after entering the playoffs 12-15.

Senior Jake Tarbell was similarly masterful on the mound for Chippewa Hills. He gave up only five hits, and the run was unearned because Davison reached base on a throwing error. The Warriors finished 27-7.

Click for full box scores. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond's Austin Harvey (20) slides in front of Milan catcher Jacob Friese to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning Friday. (Middle) Grand Rapids Christian's Alex VanDeVusse throws a pitch during his shutout performance against Remus Chippewa Hills. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

No Runs, No Hits: East Jordan Aces Toss 4 Straight Shutouts, 3 Straight No-Hitters

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 17, 2024

Playing shortstop this year for East Jordan High School admittedly has become rather boring at times.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThere hasn’t been a whole lot of action at what’s usually the busiest spot in the infield — no matter who is playing it.

Junior Eli Burns knows that better than anyone. He is the Red Devils’ regular shortstop. He also pitches.

Ryder Malpass knows what it’s like to play short this season as well – he’s normally in the spot when Burns is on the mound.

But he also has a feel for how little the shortstop does regularly for the Division 4 No. 16 Red Devils from his usual spot at catcher – receiving behind the plate for a pitching staff averaging almost two strikeouts per inning. 

Just recently, East Jordan put together three straight no-hitters and four straight shutouts.

“It’s good,” Burns said of playing short. “When you have confidence with your pitchers you don’t have to worry about the ball being hit to you that much.”

Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. Malpass, a junior, started the shoutout string himself with a 4-0 win over Bellaire last week, when he earned the win throwing 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts while going 2 for 3 at the plate with a double and RBI. Junior Korbyn Russell closed out the game.

Then Burns started the no-hitter run in the second game that night with Bellaire, a 6-0 Red Devils win. Burns had 10 strikeouts and just a single walk allowed. He also tripled in the game.

This week the no-hitter string continued with 1-0 and 2-0 wins over Boyne City. Russell and senior Lucas Stone threw the Red Devils’ third and fourth no-hitters of the season.

Stone threw a perfect game across six innings. He struck out 12 batters on just 70 pitches and also went 2 for 3 with an RBI against the Ramblers. Russell earned the 1-0 win over Boyne City with 5 1/3 no-hit innings behind 11 strikeouts and with just a lone walk allowed. Stone followed Russell to pick up the save for the Red Devils, now 13-9-1 overall on the season and 6-4 in Lake Michigan Conference play.  

Russell is 6-2 on the season with two saves. Going into Thursday’s game with Charlevoix, he had struck out 92 batters over 42 innings while compiling a 0.86 ERA. Stone is 5-2. Before suffering his second loss of the season to the Rayders, his ERA was 1.17 and he had fanned 38 in 36 innings of work. Burns has racked up 17 strikeouts so far in just over 14 innings.

“It’s pretty special to be a part of something not many teams can do,” Russell said. “We have a special group of pitchers to get the job done.”

Stone credits the Red Devils’ defensive play for the pitching staff’s success.

“Our defense has helped the pitching a lot because they don’t make a lot of errors,” Stone said.  “It makes it a lot easier when you know they are going to make plays behind you.”

Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch.East Jordan came into this week beginning to approach the state records for consecutive shutout innings and games. That ended yesterday in twin bill losses to Division 3 No. 11 Charlevoix. But the Red Devils still can chase the national record of nine no-hit games in a season. (No official record is kept for no-hitters by a Michigan high school team in a season.)

There is also no known record of any East Jordan team racking up three no-hitter wins in a row.

“I don’t think there’s been any stretch with three no-hitters in a row, so that is pretty special,” noted East Jordan coach Adam Grybauskas. “We’re kind of picking up where things were last year and trying to build on last year’s success and make it even better this year.”

The Red Devils captured a Division 4 District championship in 2023 and then a 9-6 Regional Semifinal win over Gaylord St. Mary. The season came to an end in the Regional Final with a 2-0 loss to Painsdale Jeffers.

Russel, Stones and Burns were on the pitching staff last year as East Jordan made that run. The Red Devils will host the District tournament this year as familiar opponents Bellaire, Central Lake and Ellsworth will vie to stop East Jordan’s attempt at repeating as champion. The doubleheader loss to undefeated Charlevoix ended the Red Devils’ hopes of sharing the LMC title with the Rayders.

“I think we’ve played a little bit better competition this year,’ Grybauskas said.  “Our focus this year is taking each doubleheader at a time, and try to get better each week.

“It’s really been game by game and week to week,” he continued. “You’re always looking to do better than last year so obviously that will be something we’ll talk about in the future.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) East Jordan’s Lucas Stone winds up during a game. (Middle) Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. (Below) Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch. (Photos courtesy of the East Jordan athletic department.)