By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – It would not be an overstatement to say that Kyle Kletzka was the surprise star of the game Friday morning at McLane Baseball Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.
Kletzka, a 5-foot-9 sophomore pitcher who was on the Hartland junior varsity eight weeks ago, hurled a four-hit shutout against Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills as the Eagles scored a 5-0 victory in the first of two MHSAA Division 1 Baseball Semifinals.
Unranked Hartland (27-16-1) will play unranked Portage Northern (30-7-1) at 9 a.m. Saturday in the championship game at McLane Stadium.
Kletzka, a right-hander, did not learn about the Semifinal starting assignment until Wednesday night.
“Coach just straight up told me, ‘You’re on the mound tomorrow,’ ” said Kletzka, who struck out four and walked two. “At first I was a little nervous, but I slept on it, and I was ready to go.”
He certainly was ready to go. Kletzka struck out the first two batters of the game, and that helped ease whatever nerves he might have been feeling.
“It was big time,” he said. “As soon as I got those two strikeouts, it was all over. I wanted the win so bad. Coming in, I had a little bit of doubt, but after those strikeouts, I didn’t have any doubts.”
Hartland coach Brian Morrison agreed that those initial strikeouts were “big time.”
“It settled everybody down,” Morrison said. “There were a bunch of nerves, and he calmed the entire team down. The plan was not for him to go seven, but once he got going he looked comfortable, so we let him go.
“We had confidence that he would go out there and throw strikes, and he did that, and they hit them at us and we made the plays.”
Kletzka never got into serious trouble. Twice he allowed a runner to get to second base, but he got out of it both times with nobody scoring.
“My slider was working the most for me,” Kletzka said. “It’s my go-to pitch normally. I can’t even explain the feeling. It’s amazing.”
Hartland took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. After walks to Alex Vydick and Max Cadman, designated hitter Gary Turnbull punched a single over first base, scoring Vydick, and Cadman scored on a throwing error on the play.
The Eagles added two more in the third inning when Turnbull was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and a sacrifice fly by freshman Max Hendricks brought in another. Hartland’s final run came in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Hendricks, who had two RBI, as did Turnbull.
Sophomore second baseman Hunter Delanoy was the only Hartland player with more than one hit as he had two singles, while John Baker, who had a single and a walk, was the only player to score twice.
“It’s pretty surreal right now,” said Cadman, the catcher who was one of just two seniors to start the game. “It still hasn’t hit me that this team is going to the state final. I love this team and I love to play with them.”
Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (33-5), ranked eighth in the final Division I coaches poll, had four hits and two errors behind pitcher Bennett Norry, who struck out five and walked four in six innings. Jarod Nickel and Noah Gloe each doubled for the Knights.
“We didn’t take great at-bats, and we made too many mistakes in the field,” Kenowa Hills coach Joe Acker said. “We were hoping to jump on them early, and it just didn’t happen. But take nothing away from their kid. He threw well. He threw strikes. The kid was good.”
Morrison said it was not a slam-dunk decision to go with Kletzka as the starter.
“I just had a gut feeling,” he said. “There were a few guys who I have confidence could have handled this game, but we thought if we had to go to multiple guys, we liked the order with him first.”
Morrison is not facing a tough decision about the starter for the championship game Saturday. He will go with his ace, junior right-hander Baker.
“If somebody is going to beat us with him on the hill, they’re going to have to beat us,” he said.
Portage Northern 8, Grosse Pointe South 0
Portage Northern senior pitcher Blake Therrian knew what to do with an early six-run lead Friday in the second Division 1 Semifinal.
“It’s huge for us. Getting runs puts me in a position to just make my pitches and do what I do,” Therrian said. “I don’t have to force pitches.”
Portage Northern had a 5-0 lead before it picked up its first hit, as Grosse Pointe South made five errors in the first two innings.
“Them not making the routine plays kind of gave us the momentum,” Portage Northern coach Chris Andrews said. “When we get ahead, the pitchers are just great at pounding the strike zone and pitching backwards, and our defense came through again.
“Blake can pitch backwards. He can throw his off-speed in fastball counts, and he was able to do that. That is tough on good hitters.”
Portage Northern scored six runs in the first two innings on just one hit. The Huskies scored two in the first without a hit as they had a walk, a batter hit by a pitch and took advantage of two errors by Grosse Pointe South. Both errors came on the first two balls in play in the bottom of the first.
In the second inning, Portage Northern scored four as Grosse Pointe South committed three more errors, issued two walks and hit another batter.
The lone hit in the first two innings by Portage Northern was a run-scoring single by senior first baseman Collin Hall.
“You can’t make five errors in two innings and expect to have a good outcome,” Grosse Pointe South coach Dan Griesbaum said. “But it doesn’t take away from the year we had. We had a tremendous year, and one game doesn’t spoil it.”
Brady Young had two hits and scored two runs for Portage Northern, while Max Schuemann and Tommy Henry each scored three runs.
Henry, the team’s No. 1 pitcher, will start the championship game Saturday against Hartland.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Andrews said. “Tommy has been lights-out for us, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Grosse Pointe South (32-12), which out-hit Portage Northern 8-6, did not have a player with more than one.
PHOTOS: (Top) Hartland sophomore Kyle Kletzka unloads a pitch during his team’s Division 1 Semifinal win Thursday at McLane Stadium. (Middle) A Portage Northern runner slides into home past the tag by Grosse Pointe South catcher Logan Mico.
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.