Richard Seeking Familiar Playoff Groove

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

May 30, 2019


RIVERVIEW – Success came sooner than expected last season when Riverview Gabriel Richard won the school’s first MHSAA baseball title.

Mike Magier, who was in his fifth season as coach at Richard last spring, did not have a senior on a team that defeated Detroit Catholic League rival Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 3-0, in the Division 3 Final. Many, including Magier, had pointed to the 2019 season as the one that would carry the Pioneers over the top.

“We knew we had a quality team last year,” Magier said. “We thought we could make a run (in the tournament). You have to have some breaks along the way to win (the championship). We did (point to this season). We had done that stepping stone type of thing. We felt we had our sites on this year.”

Expectations increase, often dramatically, when a team wins it all. Richard has 11 seniors this spring, seven who are in the starting lineup more times than not. But injuries, unlucky weather and a touch of senioritis – often unavoidable this time of year as seniors begin looking forward to life after high school – have taken their tolls on the Pioneers.

It’s not that Richard has played poorly this season. The Pioneers reached the Catholic League C-D title game May 24, losing to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, 2-0. But this weekend will provide an opportunity to bring everything back together at a time when it matters most, as one must consider Richard (15-5) the favorite at the District hosted by Allen Park Cabrini on Saturday.

Richard will play Taylor Prep in the 10 a.m. semifinal, with the host team taking on Ecorse at noon. The championship game will follow at approximately 2 p.m.

“To be truthful, we haven’t played that well this year,” Magier said. “The weather has been a factor. There was a stretch where we didn’t play a game for eight consecutive days. We’re fortunate in that we have a turf football field and we’re able to practice on it. Some days I’ve received calls saying the field was under water, and we couldn’t practice.”

The Pioneers suffered a significant setback three weeks ago when Magier’s ace, senior right-hander Matthew Silka, suffered a broken right hand. Silka, who tossed a complete game one-hitter in the Division 3 championship game last season, was 3-0 with two saves when the injury occurred. It’s possible Silka will return for the Regional, should Richard advance.

“We think we can be competitive in the Districts,” Magier said. “But we’ll definitely need (Silka) in the Regionals.”

Another senior, Frank Klamerus, suffered a broken left hand two days before Silka went out. Klamerus, who plays third base, first and is one of Richard’s top pitchers, returned last week.

Richard’s best all-around player is Kevin Tuttle, a four-year varsity player who began his career as the starting centerfielder. He moved to the middle infield and is currently playing shortstop and catcher. Tuttle, who signed with Central Michigan University, is batting .465 with 13 RBI.

“He’s an all-around good hitter who can hit any type of pitch,” Magier said. “He plays good defense and shuts down the other team’s running game when he’s behind the plate.”

Another top senior is centerfielder Jacob Gosen, who covers a lot of ground in the outfield and has a strong arm. He hit .500 last season, and his average is hovering around .400 this season.

The two juniors who start are David Zubor, a left fielder who bats second, and right-hander Cole Atkinson, who’s 4-1 this season. Zubor struggled at the plate early but has since picked up his offense and is batting .300.

The cool, often wet playing conditions have made getting in a groove tough for his hitters, and Magier is hoping the weather improves now that the tournament is at hand.

“We’ve only had 20 games,” he said. “We haven’t been able to gear them up. Many of our nonleague have been cancelled.”

Richard played 25 games before the tournament started last season and finished 29-3. That team gave up just six runs over the seven tournament games, and Magier is counting on solid pitching again.

“For us to be successful (in the tournament), our bats have to come alive,” he said. “For some reason, whether it’s the weather or what, we’ve struggled at the plate this year. We just haven’t got into a groove. Our pitching has been solid, and our defense has been good. Our problem has been our hitting.”

A case in point is Tuttle. He bats third in the lineup, and despite his high average has driven home only 13 runs. The Pioneers will need to manufacture more production if they hope to return to East Lansing.

It’s been a steady climb for Magier’s program. The Pioneers lost to Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in a District Final in 2015, 3-1. The following year they lost to University Liggett, 3-2, in a Regional Semifinal, and in 2017 Bishop Foley eliminated Richard, 8-0, in a Quarterfinal.

Regardless of what happens during the next few weeks, Richard’s program is on solid ground under Magier. The 1990 Melvindale graduate, who played baseball at Wayne State, has 18 on varsity, 10 on the junior varsity and 14 on the freshmen team. Last season Richard was unable to field a freshmen team. These are impressive numbers when one considers Richard has an enrollment of just more than 300 students, boys and girls combined.

“We’ve got a bunch of smart kids and they like to compete,” Magier said. “They’re coachable, and every kid plays at least two sports. More than half play three. I definitely like the idea of them playing multiple sports.”

Tom Markowski is a correspondent for the State Champs! Sports Network and previously directed its web coverage. He also covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Kevin Tuttle drives a single to centerfield during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal win over Schoolcraft. (Middle) Centerfielder Jacob Gosen shows off his range at McLane Stadium during the 2018 championship game.

Softball Standout Finds New Home in Addison Baseball Lineup

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

April 23, 2024

ADDISON – Alisha Gahn has a new bat, new mitt, and new uniform this season.

Greater DetroitThe Addison senior didn’t transfer schools or move into a new district. She picked up a new sport – baseball.

“She’s doing really well,” said Addison head coach Rick Gramm. “She’s adjusted just fine.”

Gahn has had a love for softball from a young age and jumped into recreation and travel leagues early on while starting to pitch to her dad, Kelly.

She played for three years with the Addison varsity with her dad a co-head coach. When Addison decided to re-post the coaching job this past offseason, Kelly said he stepped aside. In the aftermath, Alisha decided to not play softball for Addison this spring.

Baseball became a possibility, and Kelly Gahn told his daughter he’d support whatever she decided.

“I just wanted to do something,” Alisha Gahn said. “I didn’t want to sit around and be sad that I didn’t play softball.”

She started attending Addison’s offseason baseball workouts.

“She told me she was leaning toward playing baseball rather than softball,” Gramm said. “We talked about it and checked into it. Opening day came, she showed up to the tryouts and she did well in the cage, and she throws the ball well.

“She’s just got a mind for the game. The rules of baseball and softball are basically the same, so she knows what she is doing out there.”

Gahn, who recently turned 18, is having a blast.

In a doubleheader against Tekonsha on Friday, Gahn went 2-for-3 at the plate. She’s playing mainly rightfield but also has been penciled into the Panthers lineup as a designated hitter.

The biggest thing for her personally is she’s no longer a pitcher. Last year she went 12-6 with 177 strikeouts in 107 innings for the Addison softball team in earning a Division 4 all-state honorable mention.

“Pitching is my thing,” she said. “That’s what I’ve done for years. That is what I did. That was my place on a team. That’s not my place in baseball.

It took some time to adjust to high school baseball pitching as well.

“The hitting is definitely different,” she said. “But I think that is what we work on as a team the most, so that helps.”

Gramm said Gahn - who hit .357 in 115 at-bats in softball last year - can hit on this diamond as well.

Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing.“We didn’t know how she would adjust to the pitching – the smaller ball, the distance (from the pitcher’s mound to home plate). She connects. She puts the ball in play. She does very good at the plate.”

Gahn said she likes baseball so far. She's even adjusting to her new mitt.

“I always knew there were differences between baseball and softball,” she said. “Whenever I watch Major League Baseball on TV, it looks like a bunch of guys trying to get home runs. After playing it, I like it. It’s pushed me and forced me to grow in the other positions.”

One of main differences is on the basepaths.

“On Friday, I got a hit and got on base,” she said. “My first base coach was talking to me. I got a little bit distracted, and I got picked off. I definitely learned something.”

Gahn said her new teammates have been great.

“Getting to know how to interact with a team of guys is different,” she said. “I have to find ways to connect with them. We are all playing the same sport, though. We are just players on the same team, just playing baseball. It’s slowly getting more comfortable. (But) there are times I miss playing on a team of girls.”

“She fits in just fine,” Gramm said of her move to baseball. “She’s part of the guys and part of the team. They just want to play and just want to win. The team has taken to her. They know her, and she’s part of that senior group anyways. I think she is having a good, fun time. It hasn’t been much of a transition at all. She’s been a welcome addition.”

Softball is still part of Gahn’s life.

Missouri is one of the few states that plays softball in the fall, which means travel softball season is in the spring. Gahn and her family pack up on the weekends and head south to play on a travel team, something the MHSAA allows since she is not currently playing softball in Michigan. It’s a seven-hour drive, one way.

“At first I was just going to go down south on the weekends and play softball,” she said. “Then I got to thinking what about baseball. We looked it up, went through the rules and it worked out perfectly. The MHSAA says softball is not the same sport as baseball. I can play baseball for Addison and go down south to play softball.”

Gahn, who also dances competitively and golfs – she tied for 18th in the latter at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final in the fall – wants to play softball in college. She’s talked to a few coaches, she said, who are supportive of her decision to play baseball this spring.

“I’ve put so much work into softball,” she said. “College is the next step for me. I’m super excited. At the end of the day, I just want to play softball.”

Gahn said her and her family did have a conversation about moving to a new district, but she was against that.

“I just want to graduate with my friends,” she said. “Sports are important to me, but I didn’t want to uproot my life. The easiest decision might have been to just move and go somewhere else. I didn’t want to do that. I’m happy right now.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Alisha Gahn hangs out with her baseball teammates in the dugout this season. (Middle) Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing. (Photos courtesy of Kelly Gahn.)