Early reports support University Liggett's move up to Division 1Baseball  |
Grosse Pointe Woods - Over the course of the past six years, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett has emerged as a state power on the baseball diamond, winning four state championships, two in Division 4 and two in Division 3, where the Knights have won titles in two out of the last three years.
University Liggett, a private school with less than 300 students, made the decision to move up and compete in Division 1, seeking to compete at a higher level in the state tournament.
Coach Dan Cimini said that he made the decision to make the move because he believes he has the team that can compete in any division.
“I think a lot of it has a lot to do with my personality,” he said. “I’m never satisfied. If I don’t have the team that could compete for a district, I wouldn’t even think about it. But we have the players who can compete and whether we win or not, we can compete. There’s no pressure on us, we’re a little school, everybody expects us to get knocked out and let them expect that. A lot of people are excited to see how it pans out.”
So far the move has proved to be a successful one. The Knights have made a statement by winning their first 15 games including a doubleheader sweep of Mount Pleasant, one of the state’s top programs.
University Liggett is ranked No. 3 in the latest coaches’ poll.
University Liggett could easily remained in Division 3 and be the heavy favorite to win a title on a year-in, year-out basis but Cimini knew his program was ready for a bigger challenge.
“They loved it,” he said. “I’ve been talking about this for years, been telling these guys that they can beat anybody and that I thought we were going up to Division 1. People asked why not stay in Division 3 and keep winning? But that doesn’t happen, so many things can happen. I don’t think like that. I want these kids to be the best that we can be on the field.”
The Knights return eight starters from last year’s state championship team including starting pitchers Anthony George (13-1 in 2016) and Matthew Gushee, who pitched a shutout in last year’s state final, and senior shortstop Connor McCarron.
McCarron, who collected three hits and two RBI in last year’s state championship game, was one of many players who supported the move up to Division 1, said that his team can and will be a legitimate contender this spring.
“We wouldn’t be moving up if we didn’t think we could make a run at winning the whole thing,” he said. “We embrace the hard work and everything that comes with it.”
Cimini said that the strong start has been important for his team and added that the Knights still face a tough schedule the rest of the way.
“It was very important,” he said. “One of the things we’ve always done in last 10-15 year is that we want to play the best teams in the state. We try to play everybody and that’s only made us a better team. It was really good to jump out and pay well against those teams. We started off the year against Detroit Western played really well agains