Record-Setting Offense, Pitching Ace Drive Beal City Finals Run
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
April 13, 2023
On the way to finishing Division 4 runner-up last season, Beal City produced a record-breaking offensive performance while following one of the most consistently successful pitching aces in state history.
The Aggies set an MHSAA record by scoring 12.5 runs per game in finishing 30-3, also making the team record book with 413 runs total, 78 doubles, 22 triples (tied for third all-time), 345 RBI and a .442 team batting average that ranks second on that list.
Brendan Martin made the career consecutive pitching wins list with 19 over his junior and senior seasons, and senior teammate Brayden Haynes earned listings for two home runs and six RBI in one inning of a win over Lake City. Martin is pitching this spring at Mid Michigan College.
See below for more recent additions to the baseball record book:
Over a five-game stretch during April 2021, Kalamazoo Hackett Prep’s Stephen Kwapis got a hit in 13 straight at bats – the fourth-longest such streak in MHSAA history. He began with a hit in his final at bat in the first game of two that April 16 against Watervliet, then went 2 for 2 in the second game, a combined 7 for 7 during a doubleheader against Galesburg-Augusta on April 22, and finished with hits in his first three at bats April 24, 2021, against Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern. He piled up five doubles, a triple and four home runs, along with three singles during the streak.
Portage Central’s run to the 2021 Division 1 championship game included record-book accomplishments by three individuals. Senior Luke Leto scored 73 runs over 37 games, good to tie for fifth-most runs in a season. Zach MacDonald was added for seven triples and 15 home runs, both over 40 games, and senior pitcher Gavin Brasosky posted a 0.84 ERA over 66 2/3 innings pitched. Leto is playing at Kansas after starting his college career at Louisiana State, and Brasosky is throwing at Kansas after playing a season at Tennessee. MacDonald is continuing at Miami (Ohio).
In 2016, Concord's Charlie Ropp became the second player from his family on the single-season stolen bases list, with his 63 over 35 games ranking for third-most in his family but sixth-most statewide.
Nearly 30 years later, Jason Knowlton has received his due for a performance April 29, 1994. On that day, he connected on back-to-back grand slams for Bridgman against Eau Claire, in consecutive innings. He’s one of seven to be listed for doing so in consecutive at bats.
Three of the oldest listings in this sport were added, all from Morrice. Jim Pavlica, a junior in 1946, was added for six stolen bases in a game that season against Byron. Pavlica would go on to play in the minors for the Chicago White Sox. He would have two more stolen bases when Morrice swiped 19 total against Byron in 1947, a performance that ranks fourth on the single-game steals list. Morrice also was added for 18 steals in a 1944 game against Byron.
Over the course of 11 days last spring, two Manistee hitters made the record book for steals in a game. Junior Ethan Edmondson tied for third on the list with seven against Bear Lake on April 30. Junior Jeff Huber made the list with six against Muskegon Orchard View on May 10.
Kingsley’s Owen Graves was added to the records for his seven triples as a senior in 2021. He now plays at Aquinas College.
Brighton Charyl Stockwell pitcher Aidan Liedeke was tough to hit last spring, as he struck out more than two batters per inning. He finished with 135 strikeouts over 61 1/3 innings pitching, for an average of 15.41 strikeouts per game – third-most on that record list. A senior this school year, he’s committed to continue at Kalamazoo College.
Jack Lamb brought plenty of speed to Perry’s offense last spring as a senior, making the record book twice. He reached the single-season list with 53 steals over 33 games, and also the single-game list with six steals on May 9, 2022, against Vermontville Maple Valley.
A performance more than four decades old from a school no longer open got its due. Orlando Villarreal hit a combined .451 over the 1979 and 1980 seasons to make the career batting average list for Wyoming Park. He went on to play at Central Michigan.
Jacob Morton became the first player on record since 2017 to hit two home runs in one inning when he did so in the first inning for Adrian Lenawee Christian against Britton Deerfield on May 16, 2022. Morton is a senior this school year.
PHOTO Beal City standout Cayden Smith drives a pitch during last season’s Division 4 Final against Riverview Gabriel Richard.
Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers
By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
No 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.
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.
“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 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.)