St Mary's Completes Championship Climb

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 15, 2019

EAST LANSING – By the time the final weekend of the baseball season came around, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was a juggernaut. 

The young but incredibly talented Eaglets showed that by defeating their final two opponents by a combined score of 18-1, including an 8-1 victory Saturday against Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the MHSAA Division 2 Final at McLane Stadium.

But after a 7-9 start to the season, what seemed inevitable by the end looked far from certain.

“That Ohio trip (on spring break), we really just kind of bonded closer,” St. Mary’s sophomore second baseman Alex Mooney said. “We said, ‘Enough is enough, we’re not losing anymore,’ and that’s actually what we did – we haven’t lost since. You see all the talent, you see all the (college) commitments and stuff, and it’s like, ‘Why aren’t we winning?’ Then it finally just clicked, and everything just came together.”

St. Mary’s (34-9-2) finished the season 27-0-2 over its final 29 games to claim the fourth Finals title in school history, and first since 2015. 

"It’s good putting it all together,” Eaglets coach Matt Petry said. “At the beginning of the year while we were struggling, we would get good pitching and we wouldn’t swing. Or we would swing and we wouldn’t get good pitching. For the last two months, we’ve kind of put it all together and we’ve won every type of game possible, and the guys were just really confident coming into this weekend.”

That confidence was evident Saturday, as the Eaglets were always in control against the Cougars thanks to strong hitting and a stellar pitching performance from freshman starter Brock Porter. In six innings of work, Porter struck out seven while allowing five hits, three walks and one run.

“I definitely have confidence in Brock,” Mooney said. “He’s no normal freshman, so I don’t think the stage ever gets too big for him. He’s going to be a stud.”

Senior Dillon Kark closed the game, allowing one hit before forcing a double play ball to end the seventh inning.

Petry said he had complete confidence in Porter, despite his age, but he also knew he had the full strength of his deep pitching staff at the ready thanks to a complete-game outing from Thursday’s starter Logan Wood.

“Brock has thrown great for us,” Petry said. “That was his first start in the playoffs, but he had three wins prior to today in relief. We really couldn’t make a bad decision, whether we wanted to start Brock or Anthony Fett or Mikey Gall, we were confident in all those guys, but we went with Brock. It started with Logan Wood on Thursday going a complete, that way we had the whole rest of our staff available. Some very talented guys and guys with experience. After Brock we had Dillon Kark closing it out, which was very valuable.”

St. Mary’s bats wasted little time getting going, as they scored two runs in each of the first three innings to jump out to a 6-0 lead. 

Senior catcher Harrison Poeszat opened the scoring with an RBI single, and Kameron Arnold, who came in to run for him, made it 2-0 with some heads-up play. After he stole second, the throw went into the outfield and Arnold took advantage of the confusion to run home.

Mooney drove in a pair of runs with a single in the second inning, and the Eaglets added two more runs on an error in the third.

Catholic Central (27-11) got on the board in the fifth inning with a sacrifice fly from Kyle Tepper that drove in Nate Trudeau. 

Jack Mooney put St. Mary’s up 7-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning with a sacrifice that scored Grant Henson, and an RBI triple from Nolan Schubart in the bottom of the sixth closed out the scoring. 

“We looked at their lineup before we played and we saw that the bottom of their order, 7-8-9, were seniors,” Catholic Central coach Tim MacKinnon said. “When you have seniors hitting 7, 8 and 9, you have a pretty decent ballclub, and we knew that. We had seen them play Thursday, and we knew that they would come out swinging the bat, and they did. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but we got a good effort out of Joe Collins. But a couple of balls got left up, and they tattooed them a little bit and got some runs early. Then we had to fight back from there.”

Mooney led the way for St. Mary’s with three hits, while Schubert had two. Cole Sibley added an RBI. 

Brenden Leonard led Catholic Central with two hits. 

“We had a great season,” MacKinnon said. “We ran up against a really nice ballclub. Matt Petry does a good job with his team, and they played all aspects of the game very well. Porter did a great job, they hit the ball extremely well today and played good defense. After the game, I told (my team) they had a good season, and you don’t throw one season into a situation where one last game means everything for the season.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Orchard Lake St. Mary's Brock Porter makes his move toward the plate Saturday during the Division 2 championship game. (Middle) The Eaglets' Cole Sibley (9) slides into second base as Nate Trudeau awaits the throw.

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.)