District draw sees Foley and Liggett baseball square off in playoff opener

By: Mike Moore | Madison - Park News | Published May 26, 2015


MADISON HEIGHTS — They’ve combined to win six state titles since the spring of 2011.

They are the only two state champions that baseball’s Division 3 tournament has known in the past four years.

But on the opening day of the 2015 state playoffs, Madison Heights Bishop Foley or Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett will be heading directly into the offseason.

“I like it, to be honest,” Foley first-year skipper Justin Robinson said last week about his team’s playoff opener against Liggett, the defending D-3 champ. “ I think the winner of that game will go through the rest of the playoffs with a lot of confidence. I think you want to start the playoffs off playing a team that good and being forced to play your best.”

“We’d have to play them eventually,” Liggett coach Dan Cimini said. “We’re excited. We really wanted them last year, and we had that opportunity. We went into it very confident, and we will do that again this year.”

The teams launch the postseason at 4:30 p.m. May 26 at Bishop Foley, with stakes that couldn’t be much higher for a game technically called a pre-district battle.

“If you can find a way to win that game, it could spark you the rest of the tournament,” Robinson added.

The résumés of the teams, and the backstory leading into this matchup, couldn’t have been scripted any better.

Liggett is the defending D-3 champ, and just so happens to be a two-time defending champ after winning the 2013 state crown in D-4.

The Knights, also winners of the 2011 D-4 title, were the first team in MHSAA baseball history to win back-to-back titles in different divisions.

And oh, by the way, their journey to last year’s pinnacle included a 5-4 victory against Bishop Foley in the regional final, ending Foley’s run at a fourth straight state title after the Ventures won it all in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“It was a killer. It’s a game you lose sleep over,” Robinson said of last year’s regional loss. Foley trailed 5-0 in the seventh with two outs before scoring four runs and loading the bases. The final out of the game came at third base. “They made all the plays they had to. Their pitcher threw an absolute gem. He changed speeds and had our guys off balance.”

That was then, though. Both teams have changed considerably.

Robinson is still a rookie head coach. Cimini said just two guys in his regular rotation were on the field when the Knights won it all last year.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Foley was 17-6 at press time and prepping for a chance to win its fourth consecutive Catholic League title.

Liggett, on the other hand, has played a brutal schedule, but was still 15-8 at press time and had beaten three state champs from last year already.

“We have to go in there and play our game,” Cimini said. The Knights have won 10 district titles in the past 11 years. “We’re good. We’re talented, and we strive to be at our best every time we step on the field. That has to happen in this game, as well.”

“We can’t give them anything,” Robinson said. “We have to make all 21 outs on defense. Offensively, we’re going to have to be aggressive. We’re going to take some chances and have to execute.”

For complete coverage of Foley’s appearance in the 2015 Catholic League final at Comerica Park, see next week’s edition or visit www.candgnews.com and click on the Sports tab.