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.

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.

West MichiganNo 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.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. 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.

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.“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 KendraTom 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.)