BASEBALL: Liggett returns to state championship game, this time in Division 3, behind Gushee’s complete game
EAST LANSING – As a freshman a season ago, Matt Gushee watched his team win a state championship from the bench as a veteran Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett team won its second state title in three years and undoubtedly envisioned himself playing a role in the Knights quest for a state title in the future.
Just one year later, Gushee had an opportunity to lead the Knights back to the state championship game, and he did not disappoint.
The sophomore turned in a complete game gem, scattering four hits and allowing just one run to lead Liggett to a 7-1 win over Reese in the Division 3 state semifinal game.
After winning the Division 4 title last year, Liggett (24-8) will look to win the Division 3 state championship on Saturday, as the Knights will face Decatur, which beat Liggett in the 2012 Division 4 state championship game.
“Last year really helped me out to see what the atmosphere was like and what being a part of the state playoffs really is,” said Gushee of being a part of last year’s squad that won it all. “That really got me shaped to the character I am now.”
Liggett didn’t waste any time getting on the board in the first inning as the Knights first scored a run off an error with one out and shortly after, freshman Gherig Anglin brought in another run with an RBI fielder’s choice to give the Knights a 2-0 lead after the top half of the first.
Liggett Skipper Dan Cimini said that getting on the board early did a lot to calm his team’s nerves early on and said that he made it a point to his team to get going early and take the big Reese crowd out of the game.
“It was huge, once I lost the coin flip and we were visitors, I told the team that we’ve got to get on them and get this crowd out of it,” he said. “(Reese) had a big crowd today with people screaming and yelling, so we had to get some runs on the board, take their crowd out of it. Our goal was to score a run an inning, win every inning and we did that today.”
Ligget later pushed its lead to 3-0 in the second inning after a two out RBI double from Adam Fiema.
Reese managed to get a run back in the bottom half of the second inning, but that’s all that Gushee would allow as he wouldn’t allow Reese to score again, allowing just two hits through the final five innings.
“This has been a lot more fun, because last year I was here to help the team out on the bench and whenever I was called up to bat, I was there,” Gushee said of this year’s run for him. “But this season, really playing and really being involved in this atmosphere has been a lot of fun.”
The Knights then blew the game open in the third as Liggett plated three runs in the frame, the first coming on an RBI single off the bat of senior Patrick Broder, later a bases loaded walk drawn by Fiema pushed the lead to 5-1 and another bases loaded walk from senior Cole Zingas brought the score to 6-1 after three innings.
With a win on Saturday, Liggett will make the transition from Division 4 to Division 3 complete, but it’s something that Cimini said his team expects to do regardless of which division the Knights are in, as long as they play their style of baseball.
“We take it one game at a time and our mentality is that when we play our game, nobody can beat us, that’s been our program’s motto,” he said. “When we play sound Liggett baseball, we’re going to be in every game and this year’s been no different.”