Summerfield, Nouvel Add to Playoff Perfection
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
June 14, 2019
EAST LANSING – Petersburg Summerfield pitcher Brock Olmstead said he was a little surprised when he got the ball to start Friday’s Division 4 Semifinal, thinking it would be Bulldogs ace Derek Clark who took the mound with a trip to the Finals on the line.
His coach, Travis Pant, feels his team has two aces, however, and his confidence was rewarded as the sophomore threw a two-hitter to lead the Bulldogs to a 5-0 win over Gaylord St. Mary and their first-ever championship game appearance.
“I kind of thought he was going to put Derek to throw in front of me, because we want to get there before we can actually play there,” Olmstead said. “I was happy that he trusted me, and he threw me out there, and it worked out good.”
Summerfield (27-4) will play Saturday against Saginaw Nouvel, which defeated Decatur 4-2 in the second Semifinal at McLane Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.
Olmstead entered Friday’s game with a chip on his shoulder, carried all the way from last year’s Quarterfinal, a 3-2 loss to St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic. Olmstead took the pitching defeat in that game and said he’s had the final scoreboard saved as the lock screen on his phone ever since.
“I just have all the confidence in the world in Brock,” Pant said. “He lost the Quarterfinal game last year, so I was going to give him a chance for some redemption. He’s been throwing great for us all year, and we’re solid defensively when he pitches because I get to put Derek in center field – he made a couple plays today that you just kind of shake your head at. But that was the decision, that’s what we’ve been rolling with and I wasn’t going to change anything because I didn’t want him to think I didn’t have any confidence in him. He’s been throwing Game 1, and Derek will throw Game 2.”
Clark had three hits, one RBI and two runs scored Friday. Olmstead struck out five, allowing the two hits and one walk, facing just 24 batters in seven innings of work.
He also had some early run support, as the Bulldogs jumped on the Snowbirds (26-6) right away. Brendan Dafoe led the game off with a single, followed by a bunt single from Clark. They were both driven in two batters later by Ethan Eyler.
It was the top of the order that was responsible for all of Summerfield’s runs, as the Bulldogs struck again in the third inning. Clark and Eyler each had an RBI triple in the frame, putting the Bulldogs up 4-0. Another run was added in the fifth when No. 5 hitter Mark Keller drove in Dafoe with a sacrifice fly.
Dafoe and Clark each ended the game with three hits, while Eyler had two.
“Our early leads, we’ve been doing that all year,” Eyler said. “I think it’s really key for us to get the early lead and then keep adding on and on. The top of our order is really killing it right now. Everyone one through nine is a hard out.”
Drew Koenig and Logan Murrell each had a hit for St. Mary. Koenig took the loss, striking out five while allowing nine hits.
The Snowbirds were making their fourth straight Semifinal appearance and could see every player who started Friday’s game return next season.
“Obviously next year is next year, but we have the same crew of kids coming back for the most part,” St. Mary coach Matt Nowicki said. “Our plan is next year to work just as hard and get here again.”
Saginaw Nouvel 4, Decatur 2
Brady Alverson and his Saginaw Nouvel teammates didn’t see themselves as a below-.500 team entering the postseason, despite their 9-16-1 record.
“We didn’t really think about our record,” the Nouvel sophomore said. “We knew going into the postseason it starts 0-0. It doesn’t really matter what our record is, it just matters who wins the most games in a row.”
Thanks to a big fifth inning and a resilient pitching performance by senior Jacob Burr, Nouvel has now won five in a row, and a sixth win will give them a Finals title and a .500 record.
“Our regular season, we played a lot of tough teams,” Nouvel coach Shawn Larson said. “We try to do that, too. Not only is our conference tough, but when we’re scheduling out-of-conference games, we want to play good teams. That makes us better, because we know come playoffs, everybody is 0-0 and we all have a shot.”
The Panthers made the most of their shot with a two-out rally in the top of the fifth inning, which provided all four of their runs. Alverson started the scoring with a bases-loaded double, which plated two runs, and in the next at-bat, Justin Osmond singled to drive in two more and make the score 4-1. Prior to that inning, the Panthers had managed just one hit against Decatur pitcher Jakob Southworth.
“I was just thinking of a way I could help my team,” Alverson said. “I was looking for a fastball on the inner half of the plate and tried driving it. I was a little late on it, and I put it in the left-center gap. When it hit the ground, I knew we were going to score, and it was just a rush of adrenaline going through my body as we scored that run.”
That was enough for Burr, who bounced back after allowing a solo home run to Southworth in the first inning that cleared the scoreboard in left field. Burr finished the game with four strikeouts while allowing five hits and two runs in seven innings.
“That’s kind of like the theme of our season: can we come back after being punched in the mouth,” Larson said. “Overcoming some adversity has been huge for us, and I credit the entire season for how we responded right then. There was a time when this team would have shut it down, but not anymore.”
Decatur did add a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Benjamin Cerven scored on a double steal following a strikeout.
Southworth led Decatur with two hits. He also struck out seven while allowing seven hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings pitched. Sam Bartels led Nouvel with two hits.
PHOTOS: (Top) Summerfield's Brock Olmstead unwinds toward the plate during his team's Division 4 Semifinal win Friday. (Middle) Nouvel's Michael Ehlman (11) snags a throw at first base just in front of Decatur runner Justin Gale.
Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers
By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com
June 7, 2023
Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.
No one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.
No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.
And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.
“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.
“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”
The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.
Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.
Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.
That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).
“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”
Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.
Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.
“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”
Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.
During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.
Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.
“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”
Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.
Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.
One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.
That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.
But that was just the start.
This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.
“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.
And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?
Tom 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) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)