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.”
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.”
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.
Standish-Sterling’s run to the 2022 Division 3 Semifinals was driven in part by a record-setting offense, including a pair of senior standouts who posted single-season and career highlights.
The Panthers made the team record book in four categories, topped by a record 28 triples over 42 games. They also were added for 371 RBI (fourth all-time), 425 runs (12th) and 414 hits.
Cole Prout tied the MHSAA record for runs scored in one season with 84 and set the record with 27 career triples over three seasons (with 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). His 13 triples in 2022 tied for third on that list, while Chase Raymond’s 10 tied for 11th. Prout also tied for 12th all-time with 182 career runs, while Raymond is eighth on the single-season RBI list with 77 over 42 games in 2022 and earned a career RBI entry with 140.
Prout plays now at Central Michigan, and Raymond is playing at Saginaw Valley State.
See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA baseball record book:
Alden Stefanovski played a major role in Whitmore Lake reaching the 2022 Division 4 Semifinals. The senior also made the record book with 20 doubles over 33 games, the first from his school to earn a listing. He was joined in 2023 in the records by senior Alex Di Dio, who hit nine triples over 29 games and also three home runs in one game April 13 against Adrian Madison. Di Dio also was added for 13 triples and a .460 average for his three-season career, and he’s continuing at Kalamazoo College.
Trenton senior Jason Marshall was nearly unstoppable on the base paths during the 2022 season – and perfect stealing on them. He made the record book with 49 steals in 49 attempts, and also for seven triples over 35 games. He’s playing football at Eastern Michigan.
Trent Hagenbach finished his Saginaw Valley Lutheran career in 2022 tied for 11th on the career triples list with 16 despite not having a 2020 season and hitting all of them over the final two. He also made the records for his seven as a junior and nine as a senior.
Dansville had 10 pitchers contribute to its 388 strikeouts over 38 games during the 2022 season, a total which placed the Aggies second all-time. Tucker Mosley paced the team with 137 strikeouts.
Parchment’s Aaron Jasiak finished his three-season varsity career with seven record book entries, including one of the most impressive winning streaks all-time. He won all 26 pitching starts over his career, which didn’t start until his sophomore season because of the COVID-related cancelation of 2020. His winning streak is the seventh longest in MHSAA history, and his 0.87 ERA ranks 11th. He also made career lists with 163 runs scored, 112 stolen bases and a .460 batting average over 103 games, and his 60 steals over 38 games this spring rank 10th. He’s continuing at Hillsdale College.
Bay City Western finished 42-2 in winning the Division 1 championship in 2013, ranking sixth for most wins in a baseball season. The Warriors also tied the record with 21 shutouts, and their 1.02 ERA ranks fifth all-time.
Grandville Calvin Christian senior Blake Pettijohn struck out 20 batters in a 7-0 win over Belding on May 11, which tied for seventh-most for a seven-inning game. He’s continuing at Hope College.
Grant’s Oakley Obenauf made the single-season stolen bases list in the spring with 45 over 29 games – and was a major contributor as his team made the single-game list multiple times. He had a combined eight steals over two games as Grant swiped 13 and 11 bases during halves of a doubleheader May 11. Obenauf is a senior this school year.
Paw Paw reached the team record book this past spring after being hit by 50 pitches over 30 games. Seven players were hit by at least five pitches, with the team leader totaling 10.
Lansing Eastern earned its first record book entries from a pair of graduating seniors this spring. Dominic Wilson capped his three-season varsity career with 134 stolen bases, which rank 10th. He swiped a career-high 51 as a senior. Teammate Matthew Stevenson made the career batting average list at .472 despite getting only eight at bats as a sophomore because of an injury.
Benzie Central’s Wyatt Noffsinger enjoyed a memorable run to nearly finish off his high school career, throwing consecutive no-hitters against Buckley on May 24 and then Manton on June 3.
Okemos then-junior Caleb Bonemer earned his first record book entry with three home runs June 3 against Grand Ledge as his team clinched a Division 1 District title. Bonemer has committed to sign with Virginia.
After 45 years, Flint Southwestern’s Ruben Luna and Risto Nicevski were added for their accomplishments on the 1978 Class A championship team. Luna made the wins list with a record of 14-0 and the ERA list with a 0.71, and Nicevski made the ERA list with a 0.72. Both went on to play at Michigan State.
East Lansing’s Sam Busch enjoyed a career day on April 12, 2019, when he hit three home runs in consecutive at bats against Ionia. A junior that season, he’s now playing at Michigan State.
Powers North Central’s Adrian Mercier enjoyed a record-worthy junior season this spring. He hit .619 over 32 games, ranking 10th all-time for a single season.
Whitehall senior Cayden Ritchie chased and nearly caught the single-season stolen base record in 2021, when he tied for second with 72 steals over 36 games. He also made the single-game steals list five times, twice with a high of six.
Aidan Liedeke capped his Brighton Charyl Stockwell career in the spring with some of the most impressive strikeout numbers in state history. Already listed for averaging 15.41 strikeouts per game as a junior in 2022, he averaged 14.92 Ks per game this spring to finish his three-season career at 15 strikeouts per game. He posted a 0.88 ERA in the spring as well to finish with a career 1.52. He’s playing at Kalamazoo College.
Killian Bies finished his Marshall three-season career in the spring among leaders all-time for getting hit by pitches. He already had tied for sixth as a sophomore in 2021 with 22 HBPs, and with 14 more both his junior and senior seasons he finished with 50 to rank fifth on that list. He’s continuing at Cornerstone.
PHOTO Standish-Sterling's Cole Prout (8) readies for a pitch during his team's 2022 Division 3 Semifinal.