Recent Champions to Meet for D3 Title

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 17, 2016

EAST LANSING – Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett has much to play for this season. As the favorite entering the Division 3 tournament, the Knights have had their eyes set on winning the school’s fourth title in six years.

On June 1, their focus became even sharper.

The father of University Liggett coach Dan Cimini died of cancer that day, leaving the team stunned and Cimini torn between the sorrow that was within him and his obligation to his team.

The pain remains for Cimini and his players, and the Knights are still on course to win that title.

Anthony George shook off a few first-inning jitters and threw a complete-game four-hitter to lead the Knights to a 9-0 victory over Scottville Mason County Central in a Division 3 Semifinal on Thursday at McLane Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.

University Liggett (31-4) will play New Lothrop in the Final at 5 p.m. Saturday.

New Lothrop defeated Jackson Lumen Christi, 6-1, in the other Semifinal.

George, a sophomore right-hander, hit the first batter, walked the second and loaded the bases before Cimini took a trip to the mound.

“I told him to take a deep breath,” Cimini said. “He was amped up. Everyone was.”

George retired the next two batters, and no other runner reached third base over the final six innings. He allowed that one walk and retired the final eight batters in order.

“I tried to overthrow,” George said. “Coach said to take a step back. I was trying to do something I’m not accustomed to. With the defense behind me, you don’t have to strike everyone out.”

George said the team met after learning of Cimini’s father’s death and became more resolved.

“It was a team thing,” George said. “As a family we had to take it to heart. That meeting was a big part of us getting even better.”

The Knights scored four in the third inning highlighted by William Morrison’s three-run double. That inning lessoned the pressure on George.

Jackson Walkowiak had three of University Liggett’s eight hits and two of his team’s eight stolen bases.

The Knights scored single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, and they scored two in the fifth.

“I’m so proud of them,” Cimini said. “Everyone knows that your goal is to get to the final four. Everything was geared for us to get back to the final. We’ve been ranked No. 1 all year, and we love it. We want that. When that happens you know that you get (the opponents’) best.”

Mason County Central (28-9) used two pitchers, but they struggled with control and combined to allow five walks and hit three batters.

“That’s not what we normally do,” Central coach Don Thomas said. “We usually throw strikes.

“We have nothing to hang our heads about.”

Click for the full box score.

New Lothrop 6, Jackson Lumen Christi 1

Cam Pope leaned on the experience gained from pitching in a 2014 Semifinal to pitch a complete game victory in this year’s Semifinal on Friday.

Pope pitched 6 1/3 innings in 3-1 victory over Maple City Glen Lake two years ago to get the Hornets to the title game.

He allowed eight hits, three walks and struck out six against reigning champion Lumen Christi. Pope ran into trouble in only two innings, and Lumen Christi (25-14) ran itself out of a potential big inning in the third.

With one out, starting pitcher John Fleming doubled for Lumen Christi. He scored on Connor Mogle’s triple to tie the game at 1-1. The third hitter in the lineup, Zach Mehelich, batted next, and when a Pope pitch got away from catcher Zac Besant, Mogle tried to score. Besant threw to Pope, who put the tag on Mogle.

Mehelich singled but Pope got the last out.

“I was hoping to hit my spots,” Pope said. “It’s unbelievable. We knew we had a good team in 2014. We have a lot of young guys this year and didn’t know what to expect.”

New Lothrop (41-3) has just three seniors on this team: Pope, shortstop Steve Garza and centerfielder Quentin Taylor.

The Hornets scored two runs in the fourth inning and added three in the fifth to give Pope a sizeable cushion. Max Wendling had RBI singles in each of those innings.

“It was just a perfect game,” New Lothrop coach Benjamin Almasy said. “They made plays. Our shortstop always makes plays.

“We just kind of do our thing. We believe in the name that’s on the front of our jersey.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) University Liggett’s William Kopicki takes off for second base during Friday’s Division 3 Semifinal. (Middle) New Lothrop pitcher Cam Pope moves toward the plate during his team’s win over Jackson Lumen Christi.

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.