Semifinal Comebacks Set Up Decider Between 1st-Time Title Hopefuls

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 15, 2023

EAST LANSING – Clutch pitching, squandered chances and plenty of extra baseball was the theme of Thursday’s second Division 1 Semifinal between Novi and Mattawan. 

In a battle of two teams both seeking a first championship, it was Novi that ultimately prevailed in 10 innings, 4-1, at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium.

Novi was down to its last strike in the seventh inning, but finally broke through against Mattawan junior starter Brendan Garza to advance to the season’s final day for the first time since 1973.

With runners on first and second and two outs following a walk and hit batter, Novi senior Alex Czapski lined a single up the middle with two strikes to tie the game at 1-1, just as Garza was on the verge of tossing a one-hit shutout. 

“Earlier in the game I was thinking off-speed,” Czapski said. “He was giving it to me, and I wasn’t hitting it. Overall, I wasn’t hitting it great, but I got a lucky poke on that. He was a great pitcher.”

Each team had a chance in the ninth inning, starting when Novi put runners at first and second base with nobody out. But the rally fizzled after an unsuccessful sacrifice bunt attempt and two strikeouts.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mattawan put a runner on third with one out following a leadoff double by sophomore Tyson Stratton and a sacrifice bunt, but couldn’t get the winning run across after a short flyout and strikeout. The flyout was a soft line drive to right, but the baserunner was partially up the line when the ball was caught and didn’t have enough time to go back to the base, tag up and try to run home. 

Novi’s Alex Czapski drives a pitch against Mattawan.In the top of the 10th inning, Novi took a 2-1 lead on a Mattawan throwing error. Novi put runners on first and second with nobody out after a hit and a walk, and on a sacrifice bunt attempt a throw went into left field allowing a run to score. With two outs, junior Andrew Kummer hit a ball that got past the shortstop and into left field, scoring two runs to give Novi a 4-1 lead. 

Novi sophomore reliever Uli Fernsler capped off three scoreless innings by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth to finish the game. 

Now, Novi will go for its first Finals title in head coach Rick Green’s 23rd year at the helm.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Green said. “I’m so thrilled and happy for these guys. It’s all about these guys and the guys in the past as well.”

Novi on the mound started senior Andrew Abler, who allowed five hits and a run over seven innings.

Up until Czapki’s tying single in the seventh, the story of the game was Garza, who was dominant throughout until the walk and hit batter in the seventh opened the door. 

Garza also accounted for Mattawan’s lone run, singling it home in the first inning. 

Mattawan, which stranded runners on second and third base in both the fifth and sixth innings, finished 25-12-1.

“We had two or three chances to win the game and didn’t capitalize,” Mattawan head coach Brett Vaughn said. “It was exactly what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be a pitcher’s duel, and that’s exactly what it was right until the end.”

Click for the full box score.

Brownstown Woodhaven 6, Macomb Dakota 4

Woodhaven has been following a pattern of clutch two-out hitting and improbable comebacks of late. 

In a Division 1 Quarterfinal win over Grosse Pointe South, the Warriors rallied from a 7-3 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring six runs with two outs en route to a 9-7 victory.

It was more of the same for Woodhaven in its Semifinal win over Dakota.

The Warriors trailed 4-0 in the fourth inning, but rallied for six runs — all with two outs — to earn a 6-4 victory and their second appearance in a Division 1 championship game since 2018. 

Woodhaven (32-11) has won 21 of its last 23 games. 

Woodhaven’s Evan Langlois (3) applies a tag during his team’s Semifinal win over Macomb Dakota.“We’ve been through a lot this season,” Woodhaven head coach Corey Farner said. “Almost every single situation you can think of, we’ve been through it. We were down big in the Quarterfinal. We just don’t quit. They don’t have that in them.”

A bulk of the rally for Woodhaven came in the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Warriors mounted a five-run rally with two outs. 

With runners on second and third base, senior Tyler Harris doubled to left-center to cut the deficit to 4-2 Dakota. 

Senior Michael Budai, junior Jacob Wright and senior Nick Phillips each added RBI singles with two outs to give the Warriors a 5-4 lead.

Woodhaven then added another run in the fifth inning when an RBI single with two outs by Budai gave the Warriors a 6-4 advantage. 

Once given a lead, Woodhaven ace Evan Langlois settled in and didn’t give Dakota any great opportunities to get back into the game, allowing just one runner to get into scoring position over the last three innings after Dakota scored four runs in the top of the third to go up 4-0.

“I felt I was dialed in pretty much the whole entire time,” said Langlois, a senior who struck out five, walked one and allowed five hits in a complete-game win. “That rally will affect anybody. I just tried to stay focused the whole entire time and do my thing.”

Three of the four Dakota runs scored in the third inning were unearned. After loading the bases with one out, the Cougars took a 1-0 lead on an RBI groundout by senior Brendan Borowicz before forming a two-out rally. Dakota took a 2-0 lead following a throwing error, and then the Cougars grabbed a 4-0 lead when a single to right by senior Will DeMasse plated two runs.

But that would be all the offense for Dakota (26-13-2), which also ended its 2019 season at the Semifinals. 

DeMasse had three hits to lead the way for the Cougars. 

“One bad inning,” Dakota head coach Angelo Plouffe said. “It sucks, but that’s baseball. You’ve got to make three outs in an inning. That’s what it takes. I’m proud of my kids.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Novi players, from left, Uli Fernsler, Brett Reed and Jonathan Aurilia celebrate their team’s Semifinal win Thursday at McLane Stadium. (Middle) Novi’s Alex Czapski drives a pitch against Mattawan. (Below) Woodhaven’s Evan Langlois (3) applies a tag during his team’s Semifinal win over Macomb Dakota.

Record-Setter Prout Helps Pace Standish-Sterling's 2022 Semifinals Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 27, 2023

Standish-Sterling’s run to the 2022 Division 3 Semifinals was driven in part by a record-setting offense, including a pair of senior standouts who posted single-season and career highlights.

The Panthers made the team record book in four categories, topped by a record 28 triples over 42 games. They also were added for 371 RBI (fourth all-time), 425 runs (12th) and 414 hits.

Cole Prout tied the MHSAA record for runs scored in one season with 84 and set the record with 27 career triples over three seasons (with 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). His 13 triples in 2022 tied for third on that list, while Chase Raymond’s 10 tied for 11th. Prout also tied for 12th all-time with 182 career runs, while Raymond is eighth on the single-season RBI list with 77 over 42 games in 2022 and earned a career RBI entry with 140.

Prout plays now at Central Michigan, and Raymond is playing at Saginaw Valley State.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA baseball record book:

Alden Stefanovski played a major role in Whitmore Lake reaching the 2022 Division 4 Semifinals. The senior also made the record book with 20 doubles over 33 games, the first from his school to earn a listing. He was joined in 2023 in the records by senior Alex Di Dio, who hit nine triples over 29 games and also three home runs in one game April 13 against Adrian Madison. Di Dio also was added for 13 triples and a .460 average for his three-season career, and he’s continuing at Kalamazoo College.

Trenton senior Jason Marshall was nearly unstoppable on the base paths during the 2022 season – and perfect stealing on them. He made the record book with 49 steals in 49 attempts, and also for seven triples over 35 games. He’s playing football at Eastern Michigan.

Trent Hagenbach finished his Saginaw Valley Lutheran career in 2022 tied for 11th on the career triples list with 16 despite not having a 2020 season and hitting all of them over the final two. He also made the records for his seven as a junior and nine as a senior.

Dansville had 10 pitchers contribute to its 388 strikeouts over 38 games during the 2022 season, a total which placed the Aggies second all-time. Tucker Mosley paced the team with 137 strikeouts.

Parchment’s Aaron Jasiak finished his three-season varsity career with seven record book entries, including one of the most impressive winning streaks all-time. He won all 26 pitching starts over his career, which didn’t start until his sophomore season because of the COVID-related cancelation of 2020. His winning streak is the seventh longest in MHSAA history, and his 0.87 ERA ranks 11th. He also made career lists with 163 runs scored, 112 stolen bases and a .460 batting average over 103 games, and his 60 steals over 38 games this spring rank 10th. He’s continuing at Hillsdale College.

Bay City Western finished 42-2 in winning the Division 1 championship in 2013, ranking sixth for most wins in a baseball season. The Warriors also tied the record with 21 shutouts, and their 1.02 ERA ranks fifth all-time.

Grandville Calvin Christian senior Blake Pettijohn struck out 20 batters in a 7-0 win over Belding on May 11, which tied for seventh-most for a seven-inning game. He’s continuing at Hope College.

Grant’s Oakley Obenauf made the single-season stolen bases list in the spring with 45 over 29 games – and was a major contributor as his team made the single-game list multiple times. He had a combined eight steals over two games as Grant swiped 13 and 11 bases during halves of a doubleheader May 11. Obenauf is a senior this school year.

Paw Paw reached the team record book this past spring after being hit by 50 pitches over 30 games. Seven players were hit by at least five pitches, with the team leader totaling 10.

Lansing Eastern earned its first record book entries from a pair of graduating seniors this spring. Dominic Wilson capped his three-season varsity career with 134 stolen bases, which rank 10th. He swiped a career-high 51 as a senior. Teammate Matthew Stevenson made the career batting average list at .472 despite getting only eight at bats as a sophomore because of an injury.

Benzie Central’s Wyatt Noffsinger enjoyed a memorable run to nearly finish off his high school career, throwing consecutive no-hitters against Buckley on May 24 and then Manton on June 3.

Okemos then-junior Caleb Bonemer earned his first record book entry with three home runs June 3 against Grand Ledge as his team clinched a Division 1 District title. Bonemer has committed to sign with Virginia.

After 45 years, Flint Southwestern’s Ruben Luna and Risto Nicevski were added for their accomplishments on the 1978 Class A championship team. Luna made the wins list with a record of 14-0 and the ERA list with a 0.71, and Nicevski made the ERA list with a 0.72. Both went on to play at Michigan State.

East Lansing’s Sam Busch enjoyed a career day on April 12, 2019, when he hit three home runs in consecutive at bats against Ionia. A junior that season, he’s now playing at Michigan State.

Powers North Central’s Adrian Mercier enjoyed a record-worthy junior season this spring. He hit .619 over 32 games, ranking 10th all-time for a single season.

Whitehall senior Cayden Ritchie chased and nearly caught the single-season stolen base record in 2021, when he tied for second with 72 steals over 36 games. He also made the single-game steals list five times, twice with a high of six.  

Aidan Liedeke capped his Brighton Charyl Stockwell career in the spring with some of the most impressive strikeout numbers in state history. Already listed for averaging 15.41 strikeouts per game as a junior in 2022, he averaged 14.92 Ks per game this spring to finish his three-season career at 15 strikeouts per game. He posted a 0.88 ERA in the spring as well to finish with a career 1.52. He’s playing at Kalamazoo College.

Killian Bies finished his Marshall three-season career in the spring among leaders all-time for getting hit by pitches. He already had tied for sixth as a sophomore in 2021 with 22 HBPs, and with 14 more both his junior and senior seasons he finished with 50 to rank fifth on that list. He’s continuing at Cornerstone.

PHOTO Standish-Sterling's Cole Prout (8) readies for a pitch during his team's 2022 Division 3 Semifinal.