St. Mary's Sinks Reigning Champ in D2

June 13, 2015

By Andy Sneddon
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – None of the players on the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s roster had ever been on a Regional championship baseball team. 

Most every starter returned this spring for Mount Pleasant, the defending Division 2 champion.

Greg Loukinen, one of just two senior starters for St. Mary’s, tossed a five-hit gem Saturday as the Eaglets unseated the Oilers, 4-1, in the Division 2 title game at Michigan State University’s McLane Baseball Stadium.

It was the first MHSAA baseball title for St. Mary’s (32-13) since 2003 and came against an Oilers team (27-13) that was not only defending its crown, but had outscored its opponents, 69-2, in seven MHSAA tournament games and recorded shutouts in eight of its previous nine starts.

“Our guys have competed at this stage in other sports – they haven’t been here in baseball, but they’ve competed in football and in the summer they’ve played in a lot of big games in front of a lot of people,” St. Mary’s coach Matt Petry said. “They didn’t show that it bothered them too much today.” 

The Eaglets overcame three errors, two of which came in the top of the first inning when Mount Pleasant seized a 1-0 lead. St. Mary’s answered with the tying run in the bottom of the first on the legs of Mason Vaughn, who walked, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch.

“That was huge. I think that set the tone for us that we were going to be around all game. If we didn’t get that run back things might have gone a different way.”

The Eaglets went ahead for good in the second inning, getting an RBI double from Joe Carlini and a run-scoring single from Drake Titus as Mount Pleasant starter Hunter Buczkowski struggled to find his control.

Buczkowski walked five, struck out five and surrendered three hits over four innings in taking the loss. Three of his walks, plus a wild pitch, came during the Eaglets’ two-run second inning.

That’s all Loukinen needed as the left-hander struck out seven and walked just one.

“He battled through some adversity there in the top of the first and he did a great job of settling down after that inning and not letting it bother him after we kicked the ball around behind him a little bit,” Petry said. “He doesn’t let too much bother him. He doesn’t walk guys. If you’re going to beat him, you’re going to have to earn it and he did a great job of keeping their guys off base via the walk. And we made some plays behind him when we needed to.”

Hunter Buczkowski led off the Oilers’ half of the seventh inning with a single and Obie Ricumstrict drew a two-out walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Loukinen struck out Zach Heeke, Mount Pleasant’s leading hitter, to end the game.

“I was just paying attention to the fact that there was another batter that I had to get out, that’s how I look at it,” Loukinen said. “I take after my teammate Drake Titus. He doesn’t let anything affect him. Regardless of the run they scored (in the first inning) I knew what I needed to do, and I had the defense to back me up.

“The past few years have been a struggle. Two years ago we made it to regionals, last year we got cut off early. There’s a lot of brotherhood on the team; everybody feels it. It was 100 percent a team win. It wasn’t just me; it was the defense, the bats, everyone on the bench.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Joe Carlini yells in celebration after scoring a run Saturday. (Middle) Mount Pleaant catcher Daniel Keller picks up the ball as St. Mary’s Campbell Kinch signals to a teammate not to advance.

Savoring Every Moment, Meyers Helping North Muskegon Extend Memorable Run

By Tom Kendra
Special for

May 29, 2024

Ben Meyers is cherishing every second of his senior baseball season – because he has learned, on several occasions, how quickly everything can be taken away.

West MichiganMeyers is the leader of Division 3 top-ranked North Muskegon, which already has eclipsed the 30-win plateau heading into this weekend’s District tournament.

“I think we’re in a really good spot,” said Meyers after a rare loss, 3-1, on May 23 against neighboring rival Muskegon Reeths-Puffer.

“We are playing some good teams before Districts to help get us ready. Everyone is trying to get ready and get focused to make a run.”

Meyers, who splits time between the critical positions of catcher and shortstop, is either first or second on the team in almost every statistical category – notably with a .425 batting average, 48 hits, 40 RBIs, 49 runs and a sparkling .980 fielding percentage.

His leadership skills are even more important as one of just four seniors for the young Norsemen, who start three juniors and four sophomores.

North Muskegon, which is 30-5 and 12-0 against West Michigan Conference opponents (NM has won 35 consecutive WMC games), opens District play against Kent City on Saturday at Montague.

Meyers was in a similar leadership role for the North Muskegon football team this fall, before breaking his fibula on the second play from scrimmage during the third game of the season against Mason County Central.

Meyers worked tirelessly, and his team kept winning, giving him the chance to get back on the field for the Division 7 Regional Final against Pewamo-Westphalia, where he started on defense and made a slew of tackles and even recovered a fumble – before the unthinkable happened in the third quarter.

The outside linebacker bit on a play-action pass and when he planted his foot, he heard a familiar pop from the same leg and knew immediately his football comeback was over.

North Muskegon won a thriller over P-W that day, but Meyers was sidelined and unable to help his team the following week as its playoff run ended with a 32-21 loss to Menominee in the Division 7 Semifinals.

Meyers, playing shortstop, throws to first base. “Right when that second injury happened, I knew that basketball was done, too, but I was determined to get healthy and make the most of baseball season,” explained Meyers, whose junior brother, Charlie Meyers, is also a standout three-sport athlete. “It’s made me extra focused, for sure. I know I can’t take a single game or a single play for granted.”

Meyers missed his entire senior basketball season – another memorable campaign as NM followed up an undefeated football regular season with a 20-0 basketball regular season, before falling to P-W in a Division 3 Regional Semifinal.

Now healthy, Meyers – who has committed to play baseball at Davenport University in Grand Rapids – would love to cap off an already record-breaking year for North Muskegon sports with a run to the Baseball Finals at Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium. NM advanced to the Regional Finals last spring before losing to Lansing Catholic.

Garret Moyer, in his third year as North Muskegon’s head coach, normally pencils Meyers into the third spot in the batting order, but has at times slotted him first or second because of his versatility.

“As good of a player as Ben is, he is an even better teammate,” said Moyer, who is assisted by Collin Houseman and Ryan Mieler. “He is team-first in everything he does. Everybody in our program looks up to him.”

Meyers is especially adept at handling NM’s deep pitching staff. The Norse have a pair of aces in senior Ryan Delora (committed to Lansing Community College) and sophomore Logan Slimko, but also a slew of capable arms behind them – notably Jaxon Bean, Ace Anderson and Kylan Nielsen.

While Meyers is moving up the all-time state rankings in career hits and RBIs, perhaps his most impressive skill is stealing bases. Meyers has a team-high 34 stolen bases this season and more than 100 for his career – an unheard-of number for a catcher.

“I’m not that fast, but my secret is knowing how to get a good jump,” said Meyers, who noted that playing catcher helps him with that.

The son of Dan Meyers and Katie Brewer, he also finds time to work as a field technician at Trace Analytical and carries a 3.97 GPA. He plans to major in supply chain management at Davenport.

North Muskegon’s outstanding season is being played out against the backdrop of a small-town turf war between the school’s soccer and baseball programs. NM’s James B. Johnson Baseball Field (affectionately known as “The Shipyard”) was razed this offseason in favor of new soccer fields, with final plans for a new baseball stadium still in the works.

In the meantime, the Norsemen have played all of their 35 games on the road, utilizing Muskegon Community College, historic Marsh Field, Fruitland Field, Softball World and other locations for games and practices.

Meyers acknowledges that the loss of their home field was a big issue for much of the season but, at this point, the team is focused on other things – namely, having fun playing as many games as possible together.

And he said the team is now using the lack of a home field as a mental motivator.

“We’ve been driving all over for practices and games for a couple of months now,” said Meyers. “We’re used to it. I mean, what team is more ready for the state tournament and all of the travel than us?”

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) North Muskegon’s Ben Meyers talks with one of his coaches while standing on third base. (Middle) Meyers, playing shortstop, throws to first base. (Photos courtesy of the Local Sports Journal.)