Preview: New Champ (at least 1) Guaranteed

June 10, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s MHSAA Baseball Finals at Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium are guaranteed to provide at least a few first-time thrills.

Of 16 teams playing in Semifinals starting Thursday, 11 have never played in an MHSAA baseball championship game. In fact, only seven of 15 that play in conferences won those leagues this spring.

Two of the five teams that have won MHSAA titles won theirs at least 30 years ago. And definitely keep an eye on Division 4 on Saturday; all four semifinalists are playing for their first MHSAA baseball championship.

See below for a schedule of this weekend’s games, plus glances at all 16 teams that will take the field beginning Thursday.

Semifinals – Thursday
Division 1
Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills vs. Hartland, 9 a.m.
Grosse Pointe South vs. Portage Northern, 11:30 a.m.

Division 2
Mount Pleasant vs. Adrian, 2:30 p.m.
Vicksburg vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 5 p.m.

Semifinals – Friday
Division 3
Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker vs. Jackson Lumen Christi, 9 a.m.
Buchanan vs. Gladstone, 11:30 a.m.

Division 4
Centreville vs. Rudyard, 2:30 p.m.
Muskegon Catholic Central vs. Ubly, 5 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1: 9 a.m.
Division 2: 11:30 a.m.
Division 3: 2:30 p.m.
Division 4: 5 p.m.

Tickets cost $8 per round and include admission to softball and girls soccer games that day also at MSU’s Old College Field. Radio broadcasts of all games can be heard online at All games will be streamed live online at MHSAA.TV and viewable on subscription basis.

All statistics below are through at least the regular season, with most through teams' Regionals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)


Record/rank: 32-11, No. 9
Coach: Dan Griesbaum, 32nd season (740-381-2)
League finish: Second in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2001, runner-up 2014.
Players to watch: Ryan Liagre, sr. 3B (.416, 44 R, 12 2B, 4 HR, 29 RBI); James Fishback, sr. 1B (.387, 34 RBI); Andrew Fabry, sr. P (9-1, 0.45, 60 K).
Outlook: Grosse Pointe South defeated its five tournament opponents by a combined score of 48-5 after entering the postseason with four losses over its final five regular-season games. It avenged one of those losses, to Detroit U-D Jesuit, in the Regional Final. Liagre made the all-state Dream Team last season, and with Fishback provides muscle in the middle of the lineup surrounded by junior Will Poplawski (.350), sophomore Brad Thompson (.338) and senior Justin McMann (.327); all nine regulars hit at least .291. Senior Will Norris moves over from second base to follow Fabry in the rotation and is 7-1 with a 2.72 ERA.

Record/rank: 33-4, No. 8
Coach: Joe Acker, fourth season (93-34)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Christian Falicki, jr. P (.325, 9-0 pitching, 2.03 ERA); Jacob Sposaro, sr. SS/P (.448, 35 R, 12 2B, 31 RBI, 6-1 pitching, 2.15 ERA); Jace Beatty, jr. OF/P (.493, 25 R, 4-0 pitching, 2.76 ERA)
Outlook: Kenowa Hills has increased its win total each of the last three seasons under Acker, adding a third straight league and second straight District title this spring. The pitching staff is deep with junior Bennett Norry (7-1) just behind Falicki in innings pitched this spring. Six hitters bat .348 or better – the team batting average is an impressive .325 – and eight had driven in at least 12 runs through the end of the District. Sposaro also has stolen 10 bases on 11 attempts, third on a team that has swiped 74 bases in 80 tries.

Record/rank: 26-16-1, unranked
Coach: Brian Morrison, 14th season (359-153-3)
League finish: Third in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch:  Gary Turnbull, jr. 1B (.344, 30 R, 15 2B, 20 RBI); John Baker, jr. 1B/P (.328, 30 R 13 2B, 26 RBI, 8-2 pitching, 0.93 ERA, 110 K); Alex Vydick, jr. SS/P (.336, 25 R, 22 RBI, 4-1, 3.43 ERA).
Outlook: Hartland won its third Regional in five seasons and fourth in seven years, but broke through for its first Semifinal berth since 2000 and second in program history. While unranked, Hartland finished third in its KLAA division behind No. 4 Brighton and No. 12 Howell. This could be only the start of a nice run – the starting lineup includes only two seniors. Six batters are hitting .317 or better, led by freshman third baseman Max Hendricks at .419.

Record/rank: 28-7-1, unranked
Coach: Chris Andrews, 15th season (376-160)
League finish: Second in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.  
Players to watch: Collin Hall, sr. 1B (.434, 26 R, 13 2B, 32 RBI); Max Schuemann, sr. SS (.380, 37 R, 20 RBI, 17 SB, 3-0 pitching, 1.35 ERA); Tommy Henry, jr. P/OF (.320, 25 R, 21 RBI, 16 SB, 8-1, 0.35 ERA, 112 K).
Outlook: Portage Northern has had a solid run under Andrews with at least 20 wins in 13 of his 15 seasons after he arrived from Kalamazoo Loy Norrix in 2001. This is the team’s first Semifinal appearance since 1972, the second season of the MHSAA Tournament for the sport. Portage Northern advanced in part by defeating No. 10 Taylor Kennedy in the Quarterfinal and is riding an 11-game winning streak. Eight regulars are hitting at least .300, and senior Blake Therrian (7-2, 2.80) could also see the mound this weekend.


Record/rank: 27-9, unranked
Coach: Greg Jackson, 26th season (524-351)
League finish: Second in Southeastern Conference White.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Matt Clark, sr. P/IF (.489, 37 R, 15 2B, 42 RBI, 15 SB, 6-2 pitching, 1.02 ERA); Tanner Heath, jr. C (.469, 25 R, 16 2B, 31 RBI); Noah Solis, jr. SS (.414, 40 R, 15 RBI, 25 SB).
Outlook: Adrian has bounced back from two straight sub-.500 seasons to win its first Regional since 2003 and make its first Semifinal since 1979. The Maples defeated No. 6 Milan in the District Final after losing three of its final four games before the start of the postseason; Adrian was ranked as high as No. 5 this spring. Clark is the only senior in the starting lineup, and two underclassmen start including sophomore leftfielder Ty Peck (.355).

Record/rank: 26-12, unranked
Coach: Luke Epple, 24th season (646-181)
League finish: Third in Saginaw Valley Association
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Hunter Buczkowski, jr. P/OF (.380, 22 R, 23 RBI, 6-2 pitching, 1.06 ERA); Zachary Heeke, jr. 3B (.469, 42 R, 22 RBI, 17 SB); Obie Ricumstrict, soph. SS (.400, 45 R, 11 2B, 21 RBI, 16 SB).
Outlook: The Oilers are on another dominant run, outscoring their six postseason opponents by a combined score of 58-2 with five shutouts. Add in two more shutouts at the end of the regular season for seven in their last eight games. Buczkowski made the all-state second team last season and leads a staff with three starters who have each won at least four games. His sophomore brother Logan is one of them and also plays centerfield and bats clean-up, hitting .369 with 10 doubles and 35 RBI. Senior designated hitter Ryan Lucksted (.388) and junior outfielder Max Trucks (.362) are two more big bats, and senior pitcher Mitch Ridley (4-1, 1.73 ERA) could find himself in an important spot as well this weekend.

Record/rank: 30-13, No. 7
Coach: Matt Petry, fifth season (104-79)
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic League Central.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2003), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Mason Vaughan, jr. OF (.373, 22 R, 26 RBI); Drake Titus, jr. 2B/P (.362, 42 R, 20 RBI, 18 SB, 11-2 pitching, 0.69 ERA); Campbell Kinch, sr. OF (.359, 36 R, 20 RBI, 13 SB).
Outlook: St. Mary’s will play in its first Semifinal since 2009, when it eventually finished Division 2 runner-up. The Eaglets have the pitching to compete for the entirety, with senior Greg Loukinen (6-4, 1.38 ERA) expected to get the Semifinal start and junior Scott Grant (5-2, 1.65 ERA) another option. This could be the beginning of a solid two-year run; the team has only four seniors and only two start as part of what is otherwise a junior-dominated lineup. Sophomore designated hitter Carter Macias (.333) and junior third baseman Drew Boyd (.322) are among others who add offensive boost.

Record/rank: 27-7, unranked
Coach: Brian Deal, 17th season (record at school N/A)
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference East.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Conner Henderson, sr. CF/P (.465, 39 R, 12 2B, 26 SB, 1.00 ERA pitching, 5 Sv); Dalton Ketelaar, sr. RF/P (.435, 11 2B, 4-1 pitching, 1.27 ERA); Brenden Lovell, soph. P/UTY (.413, 25 R, 15 2B, 25 RBI, 8-0 pitching, 1.08 ERA).
Outlook: Vicksburg won its first Regional title this spring, beating No. 2 Stevensville Lakeshore 2-1 in the Final, and then advanced to its first Quarterfinal by beating No. 1 East Grand Rapids 10-0 (Vicksburg had fallen to Lakeshore 11-0 during the regular season). Seven of the team’s eight seniors start and three more hit at least .300. First baseman Patrick Callahan is among them and also could play a role on the mound, entering the week 6-1 with a 1.64 ERA. Vicksburg was ranked as high as No. 9 this season and opened 16-2.


Record/rank: 23-7, No. 3
Coach: Lonnie Hoover, third season (52-31)
League finish: First in Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph West.
Championship history: Class C champion 1985, runner-up 1982 and 1981.
Players to watch: Chad Adkerson, soph. C (.449, 26 R, 20 RBI, 13 SB), Jarrett Thomas, jr. P/SS (.271, 29 R, 13 SB, 9-1 pitching, 1.01 ERA); Dalton Riddle, soph. P/OF (.380, 29 R, 31 RBI, 5-3 pitching, 1.98 ERA).
Outlook: The Bucks will play in their first Semifinal since 1999 and have made good on their high ranking, eliminating No. 8 Lansing Catholic in the Quarterfinal. Former junior varsity coach Hoover has led the team to an increase in wins each of the last two seasons, and they should surge again in 2016 as they graduate only one regular starter. Seven hit .300 or higher this spring, with sophomores Darren Shearer (.386) and Christian Hall (.375) and junior Gavin Morris (.362) among the other toughest outs. Another sophomore, Kyle Leazenby, might be an option on the mound after entering this week 5-1 with a 2.03 ERA.

Record/rank: 22-10, unranked
Coach: Adam Grybauskas, fifth season (81-74)
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference West.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.  
Players to watch: Cody Voelker, sr. P/IF (.353, 32 R, 8-2 pitching, 0.43 ERA); Austin Parrish, sr. P/3B (.348, 21 R, 18 RBI, 2-1 pitching, 2.46 ERA); Austin McCabe, sr. 1B (.333, 17 R, 27 RBI).
Outlook: Laker has won 14 of its last 16 with lockdown pitching led by Voelker and senior Brady Post (6-2, 2.13 ERA). The Lakers have outscored five tournament opponents by a combined 43-9, allowing no more than two runs in a game until Shepherd scored three in the Quarterfinal. Grybauskas formerly coached Central Lake from 2005-10 before taking over this program. Six of the team’s eight seniors start, but junior Logan Breismiester (.344) and sophomore Seth Bowles (.333) also supply offensive help.

Record/rank: 28-9, No. 9
Coach: Don Lauscher, third season (74-24-1)
League finish: Does not play in a conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Hunter Garling, jr. OF/P (.442, 25 R, 27 RBI, 2-3 pitching, 2.02 ERA); Justin Jurek, sr. C (.354, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 27 R); Jake Peterson, sr. OF/P (.398, 20 RBI, 32 R, 4-2 pitching, 1.87 ERA).
Outlook: The Braves’ incredible run continues, from not having a program for more than 50 years until 2013, to making the Semifinals last season and now again. They defeated No. 4 Traverse City St. Francis in the Regional Final before advancing to this weekend with an extra-inning 6-5 win over Muskegon Oakridge in the Quarterfinal. Garling made the all-state first team as a sophomore. Junior Elliot Danhoff (5-1) and sophomore Ben Schwalbach (3-0) are among others who can be called on to take the mound.

Record/rank: 22-16, unranked
Coach: Phil Clifford, fifth season (record at school N/A)
League finish: Fourth in Interstate 8 Athletic Conference.
Championship history: Class B champion 1978.
Players to watch: John Fleming, jr. C; Josh Iocca, sr. RF; Zach Mehelich, jr. P. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Lumen Christi has had its share of baseball success in recent history, but after a .500 regular season it’s fair to call the first Regional title and Semifinal berth since 1997 surprises. The Titans did load up on some solid competition, playing in the same league as Division 2 No. 9 Parma Western and facing Division 2 No. 10 Niles, No. 6 Milan and semifinalist Vicksburg in tournament play. Six seniors anchor the starting lineup.


Record/rank: 28-1, unranked
Coach: Mike Webster, fourth season (79-33)
League finish: First in BCS East.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.  
Players to watch: Michael Kool, jr. P/IF (.337, 29 R, 9-0 pitching, 0.70 ERA, 100 K); Nick Kelley, jr. C (.400, 32 R, 22 RBI); Jalen Brown, jr. 1B (.398, 21 R, 26 RBI).
Outlook: Centerville’s most impressive regular-season highlight might’ve been a 5-1 win over Buchanan, a semifinalist in Division 3. It clearly was a sign of what was possible; the Bulldogs’ only loss was to Mendon, which they came back to beat in the District opener, and Centreville eliminated No. 2 Decatur in the Regional Semifinal. Kool made the all-state first team last season and is one of three pitchers who combined for all of the team’s decisions heading into the week; senior Jordan Gest (10-1, 3.17 ERA) and sophomore Coletin Gascho (8-0, 1.57) had the rest. And stay tuned: only two starters are seniors.

Record/rank: 37-1-1, No. 3
Coach: Steve Schuitema, seventh season (170-41-2)
League finish: First in Lakes 8 Conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Nicholas Holt, sr. P/1B (.450, 39 R, 48 RBI, 23 SB, 12-0 pitching, 1.03 ERA); Jacob Holt, jr. C (.412, 35 R, 38 RBI); Anthony Woodard, sr. SS/P (.459, 60 R, 14 2B, 28 RBI, 28 SB, 3-0 pitching, 0.40 ERA).
Outlook: This will be MCC’s seventh Semifinal and first since 2012. The team has increased its win total the last six seasons and won four straight league titles and five Districts in those six seasons. Nicholas Holt made the all-state first team last season and Jacob Holt made the second team, and they are among a group that has put up gaudy numbers while facing mostly larger schools from their league and area. Five pitchers are at least 3-0 with ERAs under 1.50; sophomore Devin Comes is 9-1 with a 0.87 ERA. Senior Zachary Winzer is another tough out, hitting .427 with 50 runs, 11 doubles and 38 RBI. 

Record/rank: 30-4, No. 8
Coach: Ron VanSloten, 22nd season (444-185-4)
League finish: First in Straits Area Conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: James Rosebrock, jr. CF/P (.383, 29 R, 39 RBI, 4-0 pitching, 0.94 ERA); Travis Myers, sr. P/1B (.375, 43 R, 27 RBI, 19 SB, 8-2 pitching, 0.74 ERA); Connor Myers, sr. P/1B (.319, 20 R, 19 RBI, 10-2 pitching, 0.21 ERA, 103 K).
Outlook: This is Rudyard’s third trip to the Semifinals in nine seasons, the most recent coming in 2012, and it beat No. 5 Maple City Glen Lake in the Quarterfinal to get here. Picking out the standouts is tough because there are so many who have played major roles. Connor Myers and senior third baseman Cory Gillett made the all-state second team last season, but eight regulars bat .300 or better. Senior catcher Owen Mills receives from a staff with three starters sporting ERAs less than 1.00, and he hits .373 and is 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA on the mound.

Record/rank: 22-7, unranked
Coach: James Becker, 16th season (259-170)
League finish: Second in Greater Thumb Conference East.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Cody Hutchinson, sr. CF/P (.343, 26 R, 14 SB, 2-1 pitching, 1.09 ERA); Jeffrey Wright, jr. P/SS (.353, 26 R, 16 2B, 25 RBI, 15 SB, 7-2 pitching, 1.44 ERA, 113 K); Cole Roggenbuck, sr. SS/P (.341, 24 R, 29 RBI, 17 SB, 5-3 pitching, 1.44 ERA).
Outlook: A season after Ubly’s softball team made its first Semifinals, the baseball team has accomplished the same. The Bearcats have won six District titles under Becker, but were 5-21 only five seasons ago. The team hits .295 with four players over .300; junior second baseman Evan Block joins the three mentioned above with a team-best .361. Becker played at Saginaw Valley State University and then served as an assistant coach with the Cardinals from 1995-98.

PHOTO: Mount Pleasant’s Hunter Buczkowski pitches the Oilers to last season’s Division 2 Final; Mount Pleasant is the only returning champion back this weekend.

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years Now as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 7, 2023

Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.

West MichiganNo one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.

No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.

And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.

“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.

“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”

The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.

Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.

That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).

“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”

Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.

“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”

Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.

During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.

Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.

Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II.“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”

Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.

Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.

One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.

That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.

But that was just the start.

This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.

“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.

And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)