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Nathan Lohmeier was at home on the mound Friday afternoon, pitching for Division 1 state champion Hartland during the opening month of his senior season.

Lohmeier, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound left-hander, felt fortunate to once again be able to do what he loves: dominating hitters, making it tough for them to catch up on an 88-plus mph fastball, while having them swing well in front on his curve and changeup.

Lohmeier pitched well in a regional final last year when he suffered a serious knee injury on a collision at first base late in the game, preventing him from playing in the finals in East Lansing and from competing in travel ball for the Livingston Hurricane during the summer.

After a long rehab, Lohmeier is throwing impressively again, but he has yet to receive a Division 1 offer. He joins 6-4 senior righthander John Baker (Ball State) and junior Kyle Kletzka to arguably give Hartland the best staff in the state and a solid chance of winning another state title, especially with the entire infield back, along with outfielders R.J. Bortle and Thomas Rivet.

“I feel really good,” said Lohmeier, who pitched five innings Friday, allowing three hits while striking out six in an 11-3 win over Walled Lake Central. “It obviously was a bummer missing the playoffs last year, not being to be able to play for a state championship, but at the same time I had nine or 10 months to get my body back ready for baseball.

“I’m really thankful to be healthy again. My body feels great honestly. Everybody always ask me when I come off the mound ‘how’s your knee?’ but I don’t even think about it anymore which is kind of crazy with everything my knee went through.”

So, what did Lohmeier’s injured left knee go through?

“I had surgery on June 18th,” Lohmeier said. “It was my ACL, MCL and both my meniscus. My meniscus on the right side of my knee completely came out and was acting as my MCL. My MCL tore off the bone and came off, and then my meniscus hooked on to where my MCL was supposed to be. My meniscus on the left side was severed.

“My knee, they cut out part of my meniscus and they sutured the other part back through and then I have a bolt that holds down my MCL. Then, they graft a part of my tendon to my ACL.”

Yes, Lohmeier didn’t have the type of summer an active teenager enjoys, especially one who loves playing summer ball.

“I didn’t walk for two months, I was just in a wheelchair, pretty much just sitting back for the rest of June, all of July, and part of August,” Lohmeier said. “I had to do a rehab machine for six hours that slowly began to move my knee for me again. It was very scary and worrisome, and with that being my junior year, my recruitment year, that kind of scared me a bit.”

Lohmeier was being recruited by Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. He plans to attend and play at Kellogg Community College next year, hoping to get that Division 1 offer soon after.

For now, Lohmeier is enjoying his senior year, getting work already in three games, earning a 2-0 record while not allowing an earned run in 12 innings.

“Coach (Brian) Morrison just wants me to stay consistent with everything,” Lohmeier said. “My curveball worked really well when I came back (from an arm injury last season). Now my circle changeup is working well, setting up guys with my fastball, and with my changeup so much slower than my fastball, it’s just working right now and feels really good when I throw it.”

Baker finished 10-2 with a 0.93 ERA last season, defeating Portage Northern and Michigan-bound Tommy Henry 2-1 in a 10-inning state title game.

Kletzka was called up from the junior varsity for the semifinals, throwing a four-hit shutout in a win over Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills.

Morrison is thrilled to have Lohmeier healthy again and said Hartland has the potential to make a return trip to Michigan State for the finals.

But first Hartland will be tested in the Kensington Lakes Athletic Association West Division where Brighton won the division title last year and Howell finished second and Hartland third.

Howell already swept Hartland in a doubleheader this year and has junior Sam Weatherly leading the way. Weatherly, a 6-3, 180-pounder left-hander, has committed to Clemson.

Hartland, which started the season 1-3, has won three straight including a doubleheader sweep at Novi on Saturday. Morrison said he’s not worried about the start, especially since Hartland won the title with a 28-16-1 record last season.

Other teams to watch in Division 1 include Birmingham Brother Rice, Rockford and Portage Northern.

Brother Rice lost outfielder Nick Plummer, who was a first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, but returns Michigan-bound pitcher Karl Kauffmann, who throws in the low 90s, and MSU-bound pitcher Mitchell Tyranski.

Rockford has a strong 1-2 pitching combo in righthander Jack Weisenburger (Michigan) and lefthander Bryce Kelley (Michigan State).

Portage Northern could also make it to East Lansing with Henry, a Michigan commit, leading the way.

Henry, who throws in the low 90s, was 9-1 last season with a 0.37 ERA, striking out 127 in 74 innings. He is among five starters back from the state runner-up, including sophomore right-hander Michael Lincoln.

Titus returns for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s won a state championship last year for the first time since 2003 when the Eaglets defeated Mount Pleasant 4-1 in the Division 2 title game.

OLSM lost title game winner Greg Loukinen, but returns senior righthander Drake Titus who was 12-2 (0.73 ERA) with three saves.

In all, OLSM coach Matt Perry returns 16 players from a year ago, including Titus, Michigan-bound catcher Harrison Salter, right fielder Mason Vaughan (.375), shortstop Joe Carlini and first baseman Scott Grant.

Third baseman Drew Boyd is another returning starter. Boyd hit .340 last year with a team-leading 39 RBIs. He had three hits and two RBIs in a 9-1 semifinal rout of Vicksburg.

Mount Pleasant has moved up to Division 1 this season.

Top Performer

Alex Kuster, Birmingham Brother Rice

Kuster, a junior left-hander, threw a one-hit shutout Saturday in a 2-0 win over Catholic League rival Detroit Catholic Central

By the numbers

6 -- RBIs by Sterling Heights Stevenson’s Amanda Madak (6-for-10 hitting) in a doubleheader split with Warren Regina

5 -- Consecutive wins to open the season by Walled Lake Central before Friday’s 11-3 loss to defending Division 1 state champion Hartland

4 -- RBIs by Hartland outfielder R.J. Bortle, including a bases-loaded triple, in an 11-3 win over Walled Lake Central on Friday

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