Liggett baseball stung in D-4 final, falls short of defending 2011 title

By: Mike Moore | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 16, 2012

 Nick Azar, left, is greeted by Mark Evan Auk after scoring the Knights' only run of the game. Liggett led 1-0 at the time, but fell 4-1.

Nick Azar, left, is greeted by Mark Evan Auk after scoring the Knights' only run of the game. Liggett led 1-0 at the time, but fell 4-1.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

BATTLE CREEK — The trek was nothing short of brilliant — dominance covering nearly two years, with wins piling up one after the other.

On June 16, though, the Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett baseball team finally met its match.

The Knights' bid for back-to-back titles fell short at C.O. Brown Stadium, as Decatur High used a pair of two-run innings to claim a 4-1 victory in the 2012 Division 4 championship game.

“I tip my hat to (Decatur),” Liggett coach Dan Cimini said after the loss. “That’s a very good baseball team that beat a very good pitcher here today. … Really, I think the difference was senior leadership. That team is senior-loaded over there, where we’re a team that is so young. I think in games like this, it makes a huge difference.”

After a scoreless first inning, Liggett got things going in the second with a trio of hits. Nick Azar scored the game’s first run on a single from Patrick Broder.

The Knights would eventually load the bases, but couldn’t find a key hit when needed most.

“That was huge,” Cimini said of getting just one run. “If we get a few more there, we’re up three or four runs and (pitcher Alex Daar) has a lead to work with. But that was the case all day. I was real pleased with our swings, but when we needed that big hit most, we couldn’t get it.”

The momentum shift was practically instant.

Decatur loaded the bases twice in the bottom of the third, taking the lead with two sacrifice flies.

In the fourth, the Raiders were again busy on the base paths.

Corey Olkowski singled and eventually scored on a T.J. Stambek double, and moments later, Stambek scored on a single by Theo Rufo.

Decatur had a 4-1 lead at the end of four and never looked back.

Liggett’s best chance the rest of the way came in the sixth, where a pair of walks put runners at first and second with just one out. But two groundouts killed any sort of rally.

Decatur pitcher Tim Cerven went the distance to earn the win, allowing just five hits while maximizing his defense behind him. He induced a bevy of fly outs, while striking out two.

Daar capped a brilliant senior season, allowing four runs on just six hits. He finished the year with a 16-1 record.

“It was a great year,” he said afterward. “We just lost to a great baseball team today.”

Liggett won the 2011 state title thanks, in part, to a roster with a healthy dose of seniors.

The lack of that this season yet still reaching the final game was a point certainly not lost on Cimini.

“These guys overachieved in every way,” he said. “I’m so proud of them. I told them before the game even started, win or lose, I couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve done.”

Liggett closes out 2012 with a 25-4 overall record.

Decatur (36-6) claimes its first title since winning crowns in 2002 and 2003.