Liggett falls in D-3 baseball state finals

By: Zachary Manning | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 15, 2019

 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett's Billy Kopicki throws a pitch against Homer High during the D-3 state title. Kopicki struck out three in the game.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett's Billy Kopicki throws a pitch against Homer High during the D-3 state title. Kopicki struck out three in the game.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

EAST LANSING –– The Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett baseball team entered the Division 3 state championship game June 15 looking to cap off an impressive decade.

Since 2010, the Knights have won four state titles, two in D-3 and two in D-4, while racking up seven final four appearances.

The only thing standing in the way of Liggett and another state title was Homer High. And in all reality, it was Trojans pitcher Zach Butters who gave the Knights trouble most of the game.

He ran onto the field with his 5-foot-9 inch, 230-pound frame and began mowing down hitters one by one. He scattered five hits and struck out six over 6 1/3 scoreless innings before hitting his pitch count.

“My off speed was pretty good today,” Butters said. “I had just a great defense making plays behind me all day, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to go out and battle with.”

Even with just five hits, Liggett had chances throughout the game. Perhaps the Knights’ best opportunity came in the top of the sixth, where they had Butters on the ropes.

With one out and runners on first and second, Alec Azar sent a ball down the left field line that looked like it was going to fall. But Homer left fielder Dylan Warner hustled in and made a diving grab to secure the out before firing to second base to double off the runner thus ending the inning.

The catch allowed the Trojans to carry momentum into the seventh inning, where they closed out the game, defeating the Knights 4-0 to claim the D-3 state championship.

“I knew it was going to be a close one,” Butters said of the catch. “I looked back, I was like, ‘Oh boy,’ and he lays out like Superman, and he comes up with it. Great play.”

“It was a great catch. What’re you going to do,” Knights coach Dan Cimini said. “You can’t do anything about that. All you can do is tip your hat to them. He made a phenomenal play. Ball goes down there, it's a nice rally and you never know. But it’s baseball. Can’t turn back the clock. It happened, and it’s over with. Now, we just got to take it for what happened. We got beat. We got beat by a good team and a good coach and a good program, and I have no problem with that.”

Along with district and regional titles, Liggett ends the year with a 24-10 record and a Catholic High School League tournament championship.

Looking ahead to next season, Liggett will lose five seniors in Kellen Banaszewski, Mickey Walkowiak, Billy Kopicki, Azar and Logan King.

Despite those losses, Liggett will be operating with a business as usual mindset next season. The Knights expect to compete for state titles every year.

“Am I disappointed? Yeah. But am I disappointed in our team? Absolutely not. We had a phenomenal year, a phenomenal run. We’ve got a great group of guys,” Cimini said “We’ll be back again fighting for another championship in the following years, so I’m just proud of these guys. I’m also proud of Homer. They deserved it today. They did a great job.”