Liggett caps near-perfect 2011 season with first title in 32 years

By: Mike Moore | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 23, 2011

 Liggett senior Dominic Jamett slides safely into home to score the first run of what would be a five-run sixth inning. The Knights won the D-4 state final 5-1 June 18 in Battle Creek.

Liggett senior Dominic Jamett slides safely into home to score the first run of what would be a five-run sixth inning. The Knights won the D-4 state final 5-1 June 18 in Battle Creek.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

BATTLE CREEK — If there was pressure, they never showed it.

If tension was mounting, cooler heads prevailed.

If there were any thoughts of this magical season slipping away on the final day, well, the Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett baseball team wasn’t going to stand for it.

Sure, the Knights trailed for nearly six full innings.

Sure, they had plenty of chances that resulted in runners left on base, but Dan Cimini stressed all season that his team was the best Division 4 had to offer.

In the bottom of the sixth inning of a June 18 state final against Merrill High, his guys proved it.

“This was a dream season, something you couldn’t have scripted,” Cimini said after Liggett beat Merrill 5-1 to capture the program’s first championship since a Class D crown in 1979. “Amazing. We didn’t lose to a Division 4 team all season. It was just amazing.”

Trailing 1-0 heading into the bottom half of the sixth, the Liggett bats finally came to life.

The Knights batted around, pounded out five hits, took advantage of a costly Merrill error and held a 5-1 lead by the time the dust settled.

That was more than enough for senior pitcher Nathan Weiss, who allowed just one run and three hits the entire afternoon.

“That’s how we usually hit. We knew we could do it; it was just a matter of going out and doing it,” Cimini said of the offensive surge, one that helped ease the pain of loading the bases earlier in the game without scoring. “You always hear about teams that go into a little funk or hit a drought in the big game. I was hoping that wasn’t the case for us, but the guys responded. They came through big.”

Weiss was nearly perfect after allowing a leadoff triple to start the game and a single to the very next batter. Over the next 21 outs, he gave up just one hit.

“It was the biggest game of my life,” Weiss said beaming. “I was confident. I knew the defense had my back, and we found a way to keep it together.”

Weiss ended the season 12-1. He finished the June 18 final with the three hits allowed, just two walks and six strikeouts.

The dominance from the mound was hardly limited to him during the postseason, though. Liggett, which had to play the max of eight games, allowed three total runs during the entire playoff, including a 5-1 victory against Beal City in a June 17 semifinal.

Beal City was the two-time defending state champ.

“The entire staff was incredible,” Cimini said. “Just unreal. … This whole season was so special. I mean, we didn’t lose to a single Division 4 team. We only allowed a few runs all playoff, and we found a way to get to this mountaintop. It’s never easy, but we pushed these guys all year and they responded.”

Liggett finished the year 30-4, with a 13-0 mark in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been here,” Cimini added, clutching the championship trophy. “Now that we’ve tasted it, though, and you look at some of the guys we could bring back, we’d love to get back here. We’d love to repeat. We know it won’t be any easier than this was, but we’ll be there trying.”

Asked to sum up the season, Weiss just smiled. He pointed to the dugout, the coaching staff and the couple of hundred fans still cheering in the bleachers of C.O. Brown Stadium.

“It’s just incredible for everyone,” he finally said. “It’s been tough. You go through the whole season thinking you can do this, and you work so hard hoping it will happen. Now it has, and really, I don’t even know how to describe it. It was all so worth it.”