Small Ball, Brawley Come Up Big in Repeat

June 16, 2018

By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Never underestimate the importance of defense – especially when it comes down to one final game to decide it all.

Stevensville Lakeshore played solid defense and took advantage of four Saginaw Swan Valley errors, and enjoyed a stellar pitching performance by senior Joel Brawley to claim a 6-3 victory in Saturday’s MHSAA Division 2 Final.

The championship was the Lancers’ second straight, making them the first to repeat at the Finals level of the tournament since Grand Rapids Christian in 2012-13.

“I always tell (my team), good teams get to the final four, great teams win it,” said Lakeshore head coach Mark Nate, whose team beat Bay City John Glenn in the 2017 title game. “That’s how we lived it last year, and we weren’t just happy to get here. Last year, we wanted to win it, and we did.

“This year, the whole talk was – for 365 days – repeat, repeat and we had a long way to go. The way we were playing in April, you would have never believed we’d be standing here now.”

Lakeshore’s game is built around pressuring its opponents by playing small ball. It worked right from the start Saturday. It didn’t take the Lancers long to take advantage of Swan Valley’s struggling defense, as they struck twice in the top of the first inning with a pair of runs on throwing errors.

Senior Sean Branch got things started with a base hit to center field. After stealing second, he moved to third on an infield single by senior Bray Plomb, then scored on an overthrow to first base. On the next play, junior Cam Dalrymple beat out a bunt to third base, and courtesy runner Ryan Soper scored on a poor throw to first, giving his team a 2-0 lead.

Lakeshore (27-14) would add two more runs in the fourth inning, again aided by the Vikings’ defense. Sophomore Oli Carmody walked to start the inning, stole second base and scored on a bunt single by Brawley when the throw to first sailed into foul territory. Brawley’s courtesy runner, junior Kyle Wojahn, would later score on a fielder’s choice by Branch to up the lead to 4-0.

“We lost four good (players) from last year, but we gained three to four good ones. And once they started learning our game, it started to click for us,” Nate said. “At the end of the day, if you stick with the plan, you can produce a lot of runs by not really even hitting the ball, (using) speed and small ball. It’s a huge part of Lakeshore baseball.”

The Lancers capped off their scoring with two runs in the fifth. Carmody walked and moved to second on a single by junior Jared Evans. Brawley then hit a grounder to short, but the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, allowing Carmody to score. Senior Logan Morrow then drove in Evans with a bloop single to make it 6-0.

Swan Valley (33-9-3) scored a run in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to three singles, two that didn’t leave the infield. Junior Conner Sika had a one-out single to get things started. With two outs, senior Cameron Schroeder and sophomore Brian Ross pieced together back-to-back infield hits.

Sophomore Mitchell Jebb then hit a grounder to third, but the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, allowing Sika to score the Vikings’ first run of the game.

Swan Valley would add two more in the bottom of the seventh on a two-run double by sophomore Easton Goldensoph, which plated sophomores Victor Mancini and Brian Ross.

Brawley went 6? innings on the mound, scattering 10 hits before being pulled due to pitch count. Carmody came in and got the last out to end the game.

“There’s nothing like it, to go back-to-back,” said Brawley, whose cousin Connor pitched 7? scoreless innings Thursday, helping his team to a 3-0 shutout victory over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in a Semifinal game. “This team has worked so hard, and we feel like we deserve it. I felt like this was just another game; that’s how you’ve got to think of it. I had to go out there and do my job and let the defense work, and good things will happen.”

Connor Brawley, Evans and Morrow each collected a pair of hits in their team’s victory.

Ross, one of eight sophomores on Swan Valley’s roster, took the loss on the mound. He pitched 3? innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs while striking out four.

“Hey, we had a great year. That’s a very good team,” Swan Valley coach Craig Leddy said. “We’re young. I know it’s tough to get back here, but we’ve got all the kids to get back here. Our No. 1 is a freshman, our No. 2 is a junior and our No. 3 is a sophomore. We’ve just got to play clean ball like we did all year. You can’t play in a championship game and make mistakes, and we made mistakes.”

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Logan Morrow had two hits, including this RBI single in the fifth inning for Stevensville Lakeshore.

PHOTOS: (Top) Stevensville Lakeshore’s Joel Brawley delivers a pitch during Saturday’s Division 2 Final at McLane Stadium. (Middle) Swan Valley’s Easton Goldensoph stretches to beat a throw to first base.

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.)