Macomb Dakota head baseball coach Matt Carley attended high school graduation Sunday afternoon, honoring 10 of his seniors who were picking up their diplomas.
Dakota earned its first regional championship since 2007 when Carley was then an assistant coach.
Dakota (29-8) blanked Fraser 5-0 in a Division 1 regional semifinal Saturday before defeating Catholic League champion Warren De La Salle — which won the Division 1 state championship in 2016 — 2-1 in the regional title game.
Now, Dakota will move on to Wayne State University where it will have a Division 1 state quarterfinal game against Grosse Pointe South at 1 p.m. Tuesday. South (28-12) defeated U-D Jesuit, 7-1, in the regional final at Grosse Pointe North.
Dakota earned the Macomb Area Conference Red Division championship this season, after finishing third a year ago when it also suffered an opening-round loss in the districts. Dakota won two of the three games against division rival South this season and would earn its first trip to the state finals with a win Tuesday.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” Carley said. “Our kids are not intimidated. We opened the season against (Birmingham) Brother Rice. We took our team to Flint two weeks ago to face some great competition, Bay City Western, Saginaw Heritage, went 3-1 and won that tournament. That got us ready to play in these types of games.
“I feel the strength of our team is that we have a team, outstanding team chemistry, really great senior leadership. We have 24 players on the roster now that we’ve brought kids up from the JV team and our team GPA is over 3.0, just great-character kids.”
Senior catcher Layne Malczewski is Dakota’s leader.
“Layne Malczewski won the 171-pound state championship in wrestling, he’s going to Michigan State on a wrestling scholarship and if he wasn’t a wrestler he’d be a bonafide Division 1 college baseball player, but wrestling has always been his thing,” Carley said. “His dad is our pitching coach. Layne is a rock. He's our catcher and is an outstanding baseball player. He’s tough.”
Jessie Gelardi has an outstanding season from the leadoff spot for Dakota, hitting six home runs with 34 RBIs.
Dakota’s pitching staff is led by senior Alek Ljuljdjurovic (6-3, 1.70 ERA) and junior John Sovey. Ljuljdjurovic earned the win against De La Salle after blanking Chippewa Valley, 5-0, in the district title game the previous week.
The Dakota-South winner will advance to Michigan State University in East Lansing to play a state semifinal game at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, facing the winner of the Midland-Holland West Ottawa quarterfinal, which will be played at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant.
Birmingham Brother Rice (31-7) will face Northville (32-7) in the other quarterfinal game at Wayne State, playing at 4.
Saline will not be defending its state championship, defeating Plymouth in the regional semifinals, 5-4 in eight innings before falling in the title game to Brownstown Woodhaven, 3-2.
Richmond faces Divine Child again in softball quarterfinal
Richmond will face Dearborn Divine Child for the third consecutive year in a Division 2 state softball quarterfinal at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Novi.
Coach Howard Stuart’s Richmond (26-7) team will be trying to win for a third straight year, winning in 2016 on its way to the state championship, then defeating Divine Child last season before falling to Ida in the state title game.
But, this time around Richmond’s run to the final week was more unexpected after losing standout junior Erin Shuboy in the season opener to an ACL injury.
Shuboy led Richmond to the state title her freshman year when she tossed a no-hitter in the championship game — a 2-0 win over Vicksburg. She struck out out seven while walking one.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Stuart said of reaching the state finals. “It’s hard to accomplish. We lost our stud pitcher to start the season, so it’s been an uphill battle, but we came together as a team. You just have to be more of a team right now, believe in yourself and play good defense.
“Erin tore her ACL in the first game of the year. She faced 12 batters, struck out 11 against Armada and tore her ACL. Ashley Teltow, a junior, has taken over for Erin and she has a lot of movement on the ball. Erin threw 63, Ashley throws 59, but has a lot of movement and a lot of confidence.”
Teltow is 12-5 and freshman Shea VanScoter also has pitched.
Richmond’s hitting attack is led by senior shortstop Carley Barjaktarovich, who is hitting .611 from the leadoff spot and will be playing next year at Lehigh.
Stuart, 72, reached a major milestone earlier this season, becoming the ninth softball coach in state history to win 1,000 games. He now has 1,016 victories in his 40-year career.
Two other outstanding coaches will be going head-to-head in Division 1 when Diane Laffey’s Warren Regina team takes on Garden City, coached by Barry Patterson at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Wayne State. Clarkston will face Hartland in the 2 p.m. quarterfinal at the same site.
Laffey is the state’s all-time winningest coach, winning six state titles, including four straight from 2004-07 and again three years ago. Patterson, who owns 762 wins, guided Garden City to the Division 1 state championship 10 years ago.
Garden City pushed Macomb Dakota — which went on to win the state title — to the limit in the quarterfinal last year, carrying a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning before losing, 6-5.
“We don’t have any superstars and we had the benefit of having a nice bracket, didn’t have to play any ranked teams,” said Patterson, whose team was 17-17 heading into the postseason. “We’ve played a lot of the teams that are still in it, just haven’t fared well against them. We know Regina will be the favorite coming in, know they can score a lot of runs.”
Regina hit four home runs in a 10-9 regional semifinal win over No. 2 Fair Haven Anchor Bay, including two by Meghan Berlin, then defeated Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse 12-11 in the regional final.
Regina third baseman Melina Livingston (Penn State) hit a home run in each of the games.
All games Tuesday
Grosse Pointe South vs. Macomb Dakota, 1 p.m., at Wayne State
Midland vs. Holland West Ottawa, 1 p.m., at Central Michigan
Grand Ledge vs. Brownstown Woodhaven, 5 p.m., at Chelsea
Birmingham Brother Rice vs. Northville, 4 p.m., at Wayne State
Livonia Clarenceville vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4 p.m., at Novi
Grand Rapids West Catholic vs. Stevensville Lakeshore, 5 p.m., at Hope College
Muskegon Oakridge vs. Saginaw Swan Valley, 4 p.m., at Central Michigan
DeWitt vs. Tecumseh, 4:30 p.m., at Saline
Gladstone vs. Standish-Sterling, noon, at Petoskey
Madison Heights Bishop Foley vs. New Lothrop, 3 p.m., at Saginaw Valley
Michigan Center vs. Riverview Gabriel Richard, 5 p.m., at Southgate Anderson
Montague vs. Schoolcraft, 5:30 p.m., at Davenport University
Indian River Inland Lakes vs. Gaylord St. Mary, 2 p.m., at Petoskey
Beal City vs. Muskegon Catholic Central, 5 p.m., at Rockford
Plymouth Christian vs. Unionville-Sebewaing, noon, at Saginaw Valley
St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic vs. Petersburg Summerfield, 4:30 p.m., at Battle Creek Bailey Park
All games Tuesday
Garden City vs. Warren Regina, 4 p.m., at Wayne State
Alpena vs. Caledonia, 4 p.m., at Central Michigan
Howell vs. Plymouth, 5 p.m., at Chelsea
Clarkston vs. Hartland, 2 p.m. at Wayne State
Dearborn Divine Child vs. Richmond, 4 p.m., at Novi
Spring Lake vs. South Haven, 5 p.m., at Hope College
Escanaba vs. Saginaw Swan Valley, 1 p.m. at Central Michigan
Eaton Rapids vs. Flat Rock, 4 p.m., at Saline
Negaunee vs. Sanford Meridian, noon, at Petoskey
Sandusky vs. Millington, 3 p.m., at Saginaw Valley
Clinton vs. Allen Park Cabrini, 5 p.m., at Southgate Anderson
Stanton Central Montcalm vs. Coloma, 3:30 p.m., at Davenport University
Rudyard vs. Rogers City, at Petoskey, 2 p.m.
Frankfort vs. Coleman, 5 p.m., at Cadillac
Waterford Lakes vs. Unionville-Sebewaing, noon, at Saginaw Valley
Centreville vs. Ottawa Lake Whiteford, 2 p.m. at Battle Creek Bailey Park