Best of high school baseball converged on Comerica park for game of memories

By: Mike Moore | C&G Newspapers | Published June 29, 2012

 Liggett pitcher Alex Daar was named co-Mr. Baseball June 25. The next night, he started on the mound for the East squad in the All-Star Game at Comerica Park.

Liggett pitcher Alex Daar was named co-Mr. Baseball June 25. The next night, he started on the mound for the East squad in the All-Star Game at Comerica Park.

Photo by David Schreiber

Local standouts star at Comerica

The 2012 Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game was held at Comerica Park June 26. The West team topped the East 16-6 in a game that featured 28 combined hits.

In total, 13 players and two coaches from the C & G coverage area took park in the game. Walled Lake Central’s Zac Leimback was the only player on the West squad from our coverage area.

• Jim Crosby, head coach, Beverly Hills Groves
• Tom Kurczewski, assistant coach, Auburn Hills Avondale
• Gabe Berman, Bloomfield Hills Andover
• Dylin Eschenburg, Utica Eisenhower
• Daniel Clouse, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North
• Tommy Eng, Troy Athens
• Chad Cook, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest
• Kevin Marnon, Utica Stevenson
• Jake Balicki, Groves
• Alex Daar, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett
• Anthony Gonzalez, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek
• A.J. Susick, Avondale
• Cameron Gibson, Grosse Pointe South
• Brett Sunde, Madison Heights Bishop Foley
• Zac Leimbach, Walled Lake Central

DETROIT — They came from different backgrounds and from destinations as far north as Beal City to as nearby as the neighboring Grosse Pointes.

Some were state champs, and others had hardly tested the playoff waters.

This was a collection of individuals who united to form two dynamic baseball teams.

The best of the best in high school baseball converged for one final game June 26, and for nearly all of them, it was an evening they’ll never forget.

“It was surreal,” Beverly Hills Groves senior Jake Balicki said following the 2012 Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game at Comerica Park. Balicki had two hits, scored two runs and pitched a perfect seventh to earn the East Most Valuable Player nod. “Just being down here, playing on this field, it’s all so cool.”

“It was a great experience,” Bloomfield Hills Andover senior Gabe Berman said. “I mean, I’ve come here all my life and sat in those stands watching games. But to be out here playing, to see how big this place really is, it’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

In all, 36 players from across the state were selected to play in the game. Prep coaches were allowed to nominate one player from their teams and the All-Star coaching staff made the final call for each 18-man roster.

Players from schools on the East and West sides of the state, basically divided at Northville and Novi to the west, were then matched up against one another.

And if an All-Star Game is supposed to be offense oriented, well, this one lived up to the hype.

In a contest that lasted more than three hours and featured 28 combined hits, the West team used two key innings to prevail in a 16-6 win.

“I’m 0-1 here. That’s not good,” Groves coach Jim Crosby, who served as the East skipper, said with a smile afterward.

“But you know what? This was a lot of fun. That’s all that matters. … This was a great bunch of kids. It was so fun to get to know them and get to form some of those relationships. We had a great time.”

The East got off to a good start in the game when Troy Athens senior Tommy Eng was hit by a pitch in the top of the first. He eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Madison Heights Bishop Foley senior Buster Sunde.

The East added two more runs in the top of the second, only to see the West answer with a pair of runs of its own.

In the third, Sunde walked, reached third on a double by Berman and scored on a wild pitch.

The 4-2 lead didn’t last long, though.

The West crossed home plate five times in the bottom of the third and once in the fourth to grab an 8-4 advantage. After the East narrowed the gap to 8-6 in the top of the fifth, the West sent 12 batters to the plate in the sixth and scored eight times, all but ending the game.

“That’s the best lineup I’ve ever faced,” Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett senior Alex Daar said with a laugh after the game. Daar’s 16-1 record and 0.50 ERA earned him co-Mr. Baseball honors in 2012. He pitched a scoreless first and struck out two in his only inning of work. “It was so cool to be out here. To meet all these guys and be around this much talent, it was something I could have never expected.”

“That’s certainly the best mound I’ve every worked off,” said Utica Stevenson senior Kevin Marnon. “It was cool to face a lineup like that, too. I learned pretty quickly that you better be able to throw more than just fastballs.”

Sunde, a standout catcher who helped guide Foley to back-to-back Division 3 state titles in 2011 and 2012, has played in three Catholic League finals at Comerica, but said he was still in awe of his surroundings.

“It never gets old,” he said smiling. “There’s maybe a little less pressure in a game like this, but to see all this talent and to work with all these guys, it’s something you’ll always remember.”

The nostalgia wasn’t limited to those playing, either.

Crosby, who coached in his first All-Star Game, soaked up every last moment in the dugout.

“Everything about this is so fun,” he said. “(Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest coach and All-Star Game chairman) Mario Borrocci does such a fantastic job organizing everything to make this the night it is. To be a part of it is something special for everyone.”