East Lansing — Anthony Dermanulian made Colin Czajkowski pay for intentionally loading the bases by emptying them with a double to lift Grosse Pointe South to an 8-1 victory over Woodhaven in the Division 1 championship game Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium.
Dermanulian — a mammoth, 6-foot-3, 250-pound first baseman — stepped up after Czajkowski — a 6-3 junior left-hander and Michigan commit — walked Davis Graham to load the bases with two out in the bottom of the third.
Then, Dermanulian sent one of Czajkowski’s fastballs over the center fielder’s head to clear the bases and give South a 4-1 cushion just minutes before a downpour resulted in a 30-minute delay.
It was Czajkowski who gave Woodhaven (34-6) a 1-0 cushion, sending a Cam Shook pitch over the right-field fence in the opening inning.
It was Czajkowski’s second homer over the fence at Michigan State in as many games. He sent a ball into the trees in Thursday’s semifinal win over Birmingham Brother Rice.
Czajkowski should have been out of the third inning in the third against South (33-12). After Steve Cavera hit a one-out double and moved to third on a fly out, Joseph Naporano reached safely on an error by the third baseman, forcing in a run while keeping the threat alive. Jacob Hinkle then hit an opposite-field single to right and the runners moved to second and third on another error, leading to the intentional walk to Graham before Dermanulian’s heroics.
“State finals, can’t do anything better than that, saw a nice fastball down the middle and just roped it,” Dermanulian said. “I felt they didn’t have any respect for me. They thought I was going to be an easy out and I guess I wasn’t. After I hit that, I just knew we won, just from the intensity in the dugout.”
Grosse Pointe South head coach Dan Griesbaum, in his 35th year, talked of the bases-loaded situation which led him to hoisting the state championship trophy for the first time since 2001. South lost the title game in 2014 to Bay City Western.
“It was the right thing to do because Graham’s our best hitter (.390), runners on second and third, first base is open,” Griesbuam said, noting that he had to talk Dermanulian into playing baseball after he quit the sport following his sophomore year on the JV team to concentrate on football, which he will play this fall at Lake Forest College in Illinois.
“Graham’s a first-team Dream Teamer and you have to walk him and let someone else beat them," he said. "Derm (Dermanulian) just put a hurt on one and that was the key to the game, getting those three runs.”
Woodhaven coach Corey Farner said, “We wanted to get a force out, wanted to be able to make a play somewhere. We didn’t think he’d be able to catch up to our pitcher’s fastball, and to be honest with you I thought the Graham kid’s a better hitter so that’s why we went there, but it didn’t work out.”
After the rain delay, Shook took the mound in the fourth and pitched to Czajkowski, who hit a liner to third that got past the third baseman. Czajkowski was thrown out at second trying to turn it into a double.
Shook just tossed aside his long-ball pitch to Czajkowski and got back to work.
“When I play I don’t get myself down, obviously he’s a great player and I was just saying I’ve got to be smarter pitching the ball or otherwise they’ll take advantage of my mistakes and he did with that one (Czajkowski’s first-inning homer),” said Shook, who missed a month of the season with a dislocated kneecap before returning to pitch four innings in relief in a comeback win over Grosse Pointe Liggett in the regional final, then started for the first time in more than a month in a 9-1 quarterfinal win Tuesday over MAC Red champion Macomb Dakota, a team that beat South twice during the regular season.
So, what worked for Shook?
“Locating fastballs and off-speed pitches on the outside corner again, similar to what I did against Dakota,” Shook said.
South pushed its lead to 6-1 in the fourth without getting the ball out of the infield. After leadoff batter Cameron Mallegg reached safely on an error by the third baseman, Conor McKenna beat out a bunt, Cavera sacrificed them to second and third. Mallegg scored on a passed ball and McKenna scored on Giovanny Lutfy’s safety squeeze.
"Small ball is a part of our game and we did a great job with it to build on the lead," Mallegg said.
Despite the outcome, Farner was proud of his team.
“I’m very proud of them, the effort that they put into it and the ride they all took us on was amazing," Farner said. "I told them win or lose I’m going to love them no matter what and we just need to go out and play hard. Some of the bounces didn’t go our way. We didn’t play particularly well so we didn’t deserve to win today.”
While Woodhaven had trouble defensively, South played well, never better than in the top of the fifth when Mallegg caught James Owczarzak’s fly to right and then fired a strike to Graham who put the tag at the plate on Alonzo Chavez, who had a leadoff triple, for the double play to end the inning.