Liggett baseball aims for another trip to Battle Creek

By: Mark Vest | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 24, 2013

The definition of what makes for a successful season can depend a lot on the standards that have been established.

For some teams, winning a league title would be considered a tremendous success. For others, the benchmark for a good campaign may be a district championship.

While both of those may also mean something to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s baseball team, it is going to take more than that to satisfy coach Dan Cimini, and he believes his players, as well.

The Knights, 3-1 overall at press time, have finished the last two seasons as the Division 4 state champions (2011) and state champion runner-up (2012).

Aside from the loss of Alex Daar, who is now with the University of Michigan, the Knights return with all of last year’s starters in tact.

Given all that, Cimini has a pretty good idea as to what he is looking for from his squad.

“Our goals are to get back to Battle Creek and get back to the final four again,” he said. “If we don’t get back to Battle Creek, it’ll be a bummer year in these guys’ eyes. Our expectations have always been so high in our program. That’s why we’ve been successful. We expect to win every game we play.”

Cimini isn’t likely to get an argument about those high expectations from senior pitcher Connor Fannon, who has committed to play for Oakland University next season.

“We hold ourselves to a high standard here,” he said. “We work hard. Hopefully, our hard work pays off.”

Aside from having the luxury of returning eight starters, it just so happens that five of them are All-State players.

The Knights also have five seniors on the squad, and you can count Nate Gaggin as one who indicated a responsibility to take a leadership role on the team.

“We expect to lead the team,” he said of the seniors. “Coach expects us to lead the team. When he’s coaching other players, we keep everything in order (and) do our jobs.”

Over the last two seasons, according to Cimini, the Knights have gone 28-0 in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue Division, and have also had their fair share of success against Division 1 programs. Liggett is once again slated to have a challenging regular-season schedule, including squaring off against all Division 1 teams in non-league games, which Cimini believes will make for good preparation once postseason play comes around.

“We try to play above our level because we expect to play against the best teams in the state,” he said. “Then when we get in the playoffs, we know that we’ve played the tougher teams during the regular season. So when we get into the Division 4 teams, we’ve faced  (teams) better than the teams (we’ll) face in the playoffs.”

Despite the high caliber of competition Liggett may face, Cimini understands the challenges that could await the Knights in the postseason.

“There’s some really good teams in Division 4,” he said. “Decatur’s got a few kids back from last year. Goble’s is a really good team. Beal City is always very good. There’s some very, very good teams in Division 4 that we’re (going to) end up running into or having to beat to win the state championship.”

In other local baseball news:
The Grosse Pointe Invitational is scheduled to take place April 27, featuring all three local teams, as well as Port Huron Northern. Here is a breakdown of the schedule:

Grosse Pointe South vs. Liggett at 10 a.m. at South.

Grosse Pointe North vs. Port Huron Northern at 10 a.m. at North.

Grosse Pointe South vs. Port Huron Northern at 12:30 p.m. at South.

Grosse Pointe North vs. Liggett at 12:30 p.m. at North.

Grosse Pointe North vs. Grosse Pointe South at 3 p.m. at South.

Liggett vs. Port Huron Northern at 3 p.m. at South.