Grosse Pointe South defeated Grosse Pointe North 3-2 on June 3 at Grosse Pointe North High School to earn the school’s 26th district title.

Grosse Pointe South defeated Grosse Pointe North 3-2 on June 3 at Grosse Pointe North High School to earn the school’s 26th district title.

Photo provided by Cliff Grabowski

South baseball earns regional title, beats rivals in the process

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 20, 2023

 On top of a district title, South also captured its 10th regional title in school history.

On top of a district title, South also captured its 10th regional title in school history.

Photo provided by Wells Graham

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Grosse Pointe South baseball’s 2023 senior class continued the culture and tradition that coach Dan Griesbaum has established at south for the 40 years he’s held the head coach position.

“It’s awesome,” senior outfielder/pitcher Cliff Grabowski said. “What Coach D has built there with how long he’s had that culture there, it’s pretty unrepeatable. I don’t think anybody will see a coach be at a school for 40 years and keep the same tradition all throughout it. It’s pretty special to be a part of.”

Earning a Macomb Area Conference-Red league title in 2022 and back-to-back winning seasons in both the regular season and conference play, the senior core etched their own name into the baseball team’s extensive history, but they were missing one key aspect.

Falling to St. Clair Shores Lakeview and Grosse Pointe North in back-to-back district openers, South (27-15) was hungry to not only bring home a district title but also to rewrite the anguish of the past two seasons.

“Our mindset was pure revenge,” senior pitcher Wells Graham said. “We knew the talent we had as a team coming into the season, and we set very high standards for ourselves as a team. Nobody was happy with last year’s result, and we did not want that to happen again.”

On June 3 at Grosse Pointe North High School, South defeated Lakeview and North in back-to-back matchups to earn the Michigan High School Athletic Association District 20 Championship, which was the 26th district title in school history.

Facing one of the toughest districts in Division 1, the competition was a significant confidence boost as South headed into regionals.

“That was tough,” Griesbaum said. “We played the MAC-Blue champions who only had one loss in the league in Lakeview, and then the MAC-White champion in North. It was a tough Saturday. It was probably second to the 2018 district when we had to beat North first then Liggett.”

South would rattle off wins against Detroit Western and Detroit U of D Jesuit to capture its 10th regional title in school history, but would be eliminated in the state quarterfinals in a 9-7 loss to Brownstown Woodhaven, who South defeated in 2018 for the program’s second state championship title.

Regardless of the season’s outcome, the 2023 senior class forever solidified its legacy at South with its performance this season.

Grabowski, Graham, Ben Frakes and Walter Charuba were the senior leaders of the pitching rotation and were equally dominant on the offensive end alongside seniors Connor Stafford , Joey McEvoy and Ben Domzalski.

As impressive as they were on the field this season, the comradery was really what fueled the team down the state tournament stretch.

“It was pretty special,” Grabowski said. “I was just thinking about it the other day, and I realized that everybody in the starting lineup I’ve played with or against since I was 10 years old. I think what made it so special, too, is that none of us are really playing in college, so the fact that we all love baseball and we’ve all been playing since we were 4 years old, we were fighting for our careers down the stretch.”

Senior pitcher Chase Mazey, who’s been a staple for the South pitching staff since his sophomore season, may not have been able to physically help the team down the stretch after being sidelined due to injury, but his leadership didn’t go unrecognized.

Griesbaum recognized him as “like having another coach on the field.” Mazey said the coaching role was exactly what he needed.

“It was awesome,” Mazey said. “It kind of gave me something to do while I couldn’t necessarily help the team on the field during the game. Being able to work with our pitchers at practice and before games in the dugout anytime they had any questions, it was really fulfilling and kept my head up. It definitely helped me keep my head on straight more than it helped our pitching staff, so I want to thank those guys for helping me out throughout the season.”

Losing 15 seniors would typically set back any program for at least a year or two, but juniors Hunter Belanger, John Kendall, Jacob Kozel, Hayden Vinyard, Jack Ryan and Joseph Michelotti will look to headline the leadership core in 2024.

As South looks to build off its 2023 campaign, Griesbaum said he expects his team to build off the foundation that the senior class laid this season.

“Our motto is ‘tradition never graduates,’ and it’s basically more of a culture and mindset,” Griesbaum said. “It’s a culture that we’ve tried to establish with, ‘The tradition here is great and you need to continue that and uphold that tradition,’ and this group has certainly done that.”