Riverview Gabriel Richard, Beal City Make Right Plays When Needed Most

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

June 16, 2022

EAST LANSING – Up until there were two outs in the top of the seventh inning of its Division 4 Semifinal on Thursday, Riverview Gabriel Richard was winning with an unusual formula.

At that point, the Pioneers had three more errors (5) than hits (2), but still found themselves up a run as they looked for some insurance.

After the first two batters made outs, the Pioneers found insurance, and then some.

With a lengthy two-out rally, Gabriel Richard tacked on six runs en route to a 10-3 win over Rudyard. 

The Pioneers (16-12) are headed back to Finals day with an opportunity to add to their  Division 3 title in 2018. 

“It definitely wasn’t the way we drew it up,” Gabriel Richard coach Mike Magier said. “We actually have been playing pretty clean. I don’t know if was nerves or what, but we just didn’t play a very good game today. We finally did wake up and hit some balls there in the seventh inning.”

Gabriel Richard was cruising along with a 4-0 lead and two outs in the sixth, but Rudyard got on the board when senior Austin Warner singled and then scored on a two-out throwing error. 

The rally continued and the Bulldogs pulled to within 4-3 on another two-out error and an RBI single by sophomore Eli Sprague. 

But Gabriel Richard got the runs back in the seventh.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Gabriel Richard took a 5-3 lead on a wild pitch, and then senior Ashton Nowak delivered a two-run single to make it 7-3. 

“It felt really good,” Nowak said. “Especially since I haven’t been really doing well at the plate the last couple of games. I’ve been getting on base, but not a lot of big hits. That was really nice.”

Senior Brenden Hills followed Nowak with an RBI single, a Rudyard error made it 9-3, and then another wild pitch scored a run to make it 10-3. 

Senior Connor Silka didn’t allow an earned run in six innings of work on the mound, then Nowak pitched a scoreless seventh to finish the game for Gabriel Richard.

Rudyard had troubles in the field as well, committing four errors, allowing four unearned runs and throwing eight wild pitches. 

Gabriel Richard opened the scoring in the first inning, taking a 1-0 lead on an RBI groundout by Hills that scored Nowak, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning, took second on a throwing error and went to third on a wild pitch. 

The score remained that way until the fifth inning when Gabriel Richard loaded the bases with nobody out and took a 2-0 lead on a sacrifice fly by senior Bryan Tuttle. 

The Pioneers took a 3-0 lead on a two-out error. Gabriel Richard added another run in the sixth inning on another two-out error by the Bulldogs that made it 4-0. 

Rudyard, which was making its first Semifinal appearance, finished 28-7-1. 

Click for the full box score.

Beal City 14, Whitmore Lake 4 (6 innings)

No. 1-ranked Beal City certainly didn’t play its cleanest game of the year, but ultimately did what it had to in advancing to its seventh championship game. 

The Aggies overcame three errors and six walks allowed during the first three innings by banging out 17 hits. 

Beal City baseballBeal City (30-2) employed a bunt game that was largely responsible for five Whitmore Lake errors and other defensive lapses.

“I told my kids that back in 2018 when we won it, we could bunt, but you guys can’t bunt,” said Beal City coach Steve Pickens, referring to Division 4 championship team in 2018. “We have worked on bunting all year. The best practice we had all year was (Wednesday), and I said that we were going to be able to win bunting. We bunted.”

Whitmore Lake took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, loading the bases on a single by Zane Gregg, double by Alex Di Dio and walk before plating its runs on a double-play groundout and wild pitch. 

Beal City answered in the bottom of the first, cutting its deficit to 2-1 on an RBI double by senior Hunter Miles. The Aggies then scored three runs in the second inning to take a 4-2 lead, mainly using their bunt game including a pair of bunt singles. 

Whitmore Lake answered in the third inning, taking advantage of three walks, two errors and a misplay in the outfield to score two runs and tie the game at 4-4. But in the fifth inning, Beal City took a 5-4 lead on an RBI bunt single by Konnor Wilson. 

The Aggies made it 8-4 scoring three runs in the fourth inning on another bunt single by Wilson, an RBI sacrifice fly by Wade Wilson and an RBI triple by sophomore Jack Fussman. They scored three more in the fifth inning, thanks in large part to RBI singles by Miles and Josh Wilson, to go up 11-4. 

Beal City then finished out the game by scoring three runs in the sixth inning to evoke the 10-run differential rule. 

Miles and senior Kaiden Andrews each had three RBI for Beal City.

Di Dio had three hits for Whitmore Lake (22-10), which had advanced to the Semifinals for the first time.

“We just didn’t take care of the little things today,” Whitmore Lake coach Hank Dreffs said. “Couldn’t be prouder of this team. Program history by making it all the way to East Lansing. Hats off to Beal City. They got their small-ball game going against us, and let the ball fly.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Riverview Gabriel Richard celebrates Thursday’s Semifinal win with a backflip. (Middle) Beal City congratulates Wade Wilson (20) after he crosses the plate during the second inning.

No Runs, No Hits: East Jordan Aces Toss 4 Straight Shutouts, 3 Straight No-Hitters

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)