Summerfield Brings Historic End to Spring

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 15, 2019

EAST LANSING – For a program that had never been to a Semifinal prior to this year, Petersburg Summerfield looked awfully comfortable at McLane Stadium. 

The Bulldogs were unfazed by the pressure of playing for their first championship at Michigan State University and capped off a brilliant weekend Saturday with a 9-0 win against Saginaw Nouvel in the MHSAA Division 4 Baseball Final.  

“I preached to them from the first day of practice that we’re going to win the state championship,” Summerfield coach Travis Pant said. “No stage, no matter who we play and on any stage – we went to Decatur and played under the lights. We scheduled some big games, and I just wanted to get them used to the big stage so this was, ‘We’re supposed to be here.’ We just wanted to show that we do belong and that none of this was a fluke up to this point. I really appreciate them just coming out here and playing loose and playing our game.” 

Nobody could possibly look at what the Bulldogs did this postseason as a fluke, as they outscored opponents by a combined 89-2 in the postseason, with shutouts in each of their last three games.  

“Just hit the ball and field the ball; that’s basically all we did,” Summerfield junior pitcher Derek Clark said. “The pitchers threw strikes, the defense – I let them work behind me, and we got hot at the right time.” 

The catalyst for that was a pitching staff led by Clark, who threw a gem Saturday night to shut the Nouvel offense down. Clark went the full seven innings, striking out 11 and allowing four hits and one walk. 

He had plenty of help – some of it he provided himself – and got it early. Just like it had the day before, the Summerfield offense came out hot in the top of the first inning, scoring a pair of runs to put Nouvel in an early hole.  

Sophomore Brock Olmstead opened the scoring with an RBI single, and Clark made it 2-0 when he scored on a squeeze bunt laid down by Brandon Tyler. 

At that point, with Clark about to take the mound, the Summerfield coaches and players felt they were on their way to a title. 

“We don’t give up a lot of runs, so I knew that if we could hop on a team, we could be all right with Derek on the mound,” Pant said. “(Clark) has pitched a lot of big games – he pitched a league championship, a District championship, a Super Regional Final and a state championship and didn’t give up a run in any of those games. You look at it, and it is outrageous.” 

Nouvel (15-17-1) threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning, getting three straight singles to load the bases with two outs. But Clark was able to get a strikeout to end the threat. 

In the next half inning, the Bulldogs (28-4) were able to get a run out of seemingly nowhere and go up 3-0. With two outs, Olmstead attempted to steal third, and as he neared the bag, the throw from the catcher went into left field, as the third baseman had charged toward the plate to defend a possible bunt.  

Clark blew the game open in the top of the sixth with a three-run triple after a rally started by the bottom of the Bulldogs order. No. 8 hitter Bryce Smith started it with a single, which was followed by a single from pinch hitter Kirk Knerr, and a perfectly placed bunt by leadoff hitter Brendan Dafoe to load the bases for Clark. One batter later, Clark was driven in by a sacrifice fly to left from Olmstead to make the score 7-0. 

“If their whole lineup is hitting, that makes things pretty difficult, right?” Nouvel coach Shawn Larson said. “We knew coming in they’re a good hitting team. We just assumed we would be able to put the bat on the ball as well, because we’re the same type of team. They do a lot of things that we do with their energy and their momentum and their enthusiasm. We just weren’t able to capitalize.” 

The Bulldogs added a run in the top of the seventh inning, as Mark Keller hit a leadoff triple and was driven in by a Devin Albain single. Albain scored on a Smith single to make it 9-0. 

Nouvel’s Brady Alverson took the loss, striking out seven and allowing three runs in four innings. Dafoe and Smith each had two hits for Summerfield. 

Long after the game ended, the Bulldogs players and coaches lingered down the left field line, soaking up the moment. 

“It means a ton,” Clark said. “We have 18 league titles, and to finally get the first state championship means a lot to this program and this school.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Summerfield raises its first Finals baseball championship trophy Saturday night at McLane Stadium. (Middle) Derek Clark dives toward the plate while Nouvel catcher Joe Bartles waits for a 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.)