Reigning D1 Champ Posts Record Result

June 14, 2014

By Andy Sneddon
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Same school, same uniforms.

But an almost entirely different cast.

And a piece of MHSAA baseball history.

Sophomore right-hander Jason Clark pitched seven masterful innings Saturday as Bay City Western topped Grosse Pointe South, 6-2, to win the Division 1 championship at McLane Baseball Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.

The Warriors (38-7) became the first team in the 43-year history of the MHSAA Tournament to repeat as the champion in the largest division (Division 1 or Class A).

“It was a storybook season, and it had a storybook ending,” Western coach Tim McDonald said. “I’m not going to pretend that we were the most talented team in the state or that we were maybe even close to it. But that was a flawless performance (in the Final) from one-through-nine.

“You dream of coming out and playing like that in a big game, but you never know with high school kids.”

Unless, perhaps, those kids happen to play baseball and wear the brown and gold of Bay City Western.

The Warriors returned just two starters from last year’s team and started four sophomores in Saturday’s Final.

One of those 10th-graders was Clark, who took a perfect game into the fifth inning, then allowed three straight hits that produced both South runs to cut Western’s lead to 6-2.

“I’ve been doing that all year,” said Clark, the Warriors’ leadoff hitter who finished with three hits and scored two runs. “If I have a bad inning, I stay focused and try to speed up my momentum and it usually helps me. It’s just, stay focused, and not let myself get sidetracked by the hits.”

Those three hits – singles by Ronald Williams and James Fishback sandwiched around a Brett Bigham triple – were the only base runners South had on the day.

And after that hiccup, Clark retired the final nine Blue Devils batters he faced, finishing the game with five strikeouts. The Warriors played error-free defense behind him.

“Jason Clark is just a pup. He’s 15 years old; he was on a Pony League field this time last year,” McDonald said. “I think the seniors and some of the veterans were good about keeping him calm; (there was a) lot of positive energy. That was an unbelievable big-game performance.”

The same, frankly, could be said about all the Warriors.

“We’ve played our best in the biggest games this year,” McDonald said. “I don’t think they felt pressure because of last year, I just think there’s pressure because it’s a one-and-done tournament. If you slip up, you can get knocked off, and these guys never ever even flinched. They deserve it. There’s more talented teams, but you can’t play any better than they did.

“For seven tournament games that was as good a display of baseball that you’re going to see, in every facet of the game.”

Senior Justin Gorr drilled a two-run double in the first inning to put the Warriors up, 2-0, and Hunter David delivered a two-out double to score Gorr and make it 3-0.

As it turned out, that’s all Clark would need, though Western provided plenty of insurance with 11 hits including a two-RBI single from Seth Freed.

Freed and catcher Carson Eby are Western’s lone returning starters from last season.

“It’s a whole new team, whole new look, new pitchers,” Gorr said. “We didn’t have any returning pitchers from last year.

“Last year everyone expected us to win the state championship. This year everyone was looking down on us thinking we couldn’t do it. And to know that all the haters were out there and to win a state championship is an amazing feeling.”

And a different one, McDonald said.

“I treasured last year’s championship for a long time, and every time I see the guys from last year there’s a bond that’ll never be broken,” he said. “Now this year’s group gets to enjoy that. I’m never ever going to say one was better than the other – they’re different, but (winning is) so hard to do. You’ve got to have breaks and a little bit of luck and do all the things that championship teams do, and we did it.”

South (27-18) was seeking its first MHSAA title since 2001.

The Blue Devils started the season 1-5 and were 7-12 at one point. They finished 7-8 (third place) in their league, the Macomb Area Conference Red, but got hot at the right time and upset top-ranked Sterling Heights Stevenson in a Quarterfinal game.

“We came such a long way,” said Dan Griesbaum, who finished his 31st season as South’s coach. “I’m so proud of this team. To do what they did from the beginning to the end of the season; they just kept getting better and better and better. We lost to a very good team today. They deserved it, they played better than we did today, and that’s what the state tournament is all about.

“For us to get here and get this far and do what we did is amazing, very satisfying.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bay City Western players celebrate their MHSAA Division 1 championship at McLane Stadium. (Middle) The Warriors' Scott Badour and Grosse Pointe South catcher Roland Williams watch Badour's drive; he had one hit in four at-bats.

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.)