Liggett baseball team eliminates Bishop Foley again, opening playoffs with 3-1 predistrict victory

By: Mike Moore | C&G Newspapers | Published May 26, 2015

 Nate Grys slides back into first base during Tuesday's game against Liggett. Grys tripled and scored in the fourth inning, but that was the only run Foley mustered against Liggett junior pitcher Matthew Gushee.

Nate Grys slides back into first base during Tuesday's game against Liggett. Grys tripled and scored in the fourth inning, but that was the only run Foley mustered against Liggett junior pitcher Matthew Gushee.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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MADISON HEIGHTS — In his own words, it “felt like a state championship game.”

In reality, it’s May, and this was a predistrict contest.

“But it’s a huge start for us,” Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett baseball coach Dan Cimini said with a smile following a 3-1 victory at Madison Heights Bishop Foley on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a gigantic win. I mean, with the programs we both have the past four or five years, it’s huge.”

Liggett eliminated Foley in last year’s regional round en route to a D-3 title a year after winning the 2013 D-4 championship.

Foley was a three-time defending D-3 champ before falling to Liggett last spring.

Neither coach particularly understood — given the location of the schools — why they were grouped in the same district.

Cimini called it "a shame" that two programs of this caliber were paired up.

"If it were Grosse Pointe North and South, and we're a half mile apart, I'd have no problem with it," he added.

Robinson said, "it's a three-county drive, from Wayne through Macomb to Oakland. I just think it's rough."

At the same time, both coaches knew they had to play the cards they were dealt, and both threw their ace on the mound.

Liggett struck first, crossing the plate in the bottom of the first inning on an unearned run.

But Foley had an answer in the top of the fourth when Nate Grys tripled and scored moments later on a wild pitch.

That was the lone mistake Liggett pitcher Matthew Gushee would make, though, essentially shutting Foley down the rest of the way.

The Knights, meanwhile, took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Anthony George reached first, stole second and then advanced to third on a wild throw.

He scored on ground out by Joseph Cipriano.

Liggett then took advantage of a walk, a hit batter and a fly ball that landed for a single in the sixth to load the bases.

George eventually scored on a perfectly executed squeeze by Noah Miller.

“That was huge,” Cimini said. “We had a good hitter up there, but at that point we needed an insurance run. We knew, with the bases loaded, he’d come with a fastball, and our guys got it down.”

Gushee gave up a double in the top of the seventh to Michael Ryan and then walked Santos Guzman on four pitches with one out, but shortstop Connor McCarron made an acrobatic catch in shallow left and then doubled Ryan off at second base to end the game.

“Pitching and defense, that’s how we’ve won for years,” Cimini said. “This could be one of our best defensive teams all around.”

Gushee finished the game allowing two hits and striking out four in seven innings of work.

“He was awesome,” Cimini said simply.

Foley’s Justin Campbell was equally good.

The left-handed sophomore pitched all seven innings, striking out three. None of the three runs were earned.

“The difference between champions and everybody else is being able to do the little things,” Foley coach Justin Robinson said of the loss and his team's three errors. “We gave them (extra outs) in a 21-out game. When you do that, you’re not going to win. … Our pitcher was outstanding. He didn’t give up an earned run, and we didn’t win the game.”

Liggett, now 20-11, faces Clinton Township Clintondale (13-10) at 10 a.m. in a May 30 semifinal at Foley.

“We can’t get too high, we didn’t win anything yet,” Cimini said. “We just got into the district. We have to be ready to come back and play baseball.”

Foley ends its season 20-8.

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