Detroit – Grosse Pointe Liggett veteran coach Dan Cimini wants it known that his baseball program is one of the elites in all of the state, not just Division 3 and Division 4.
Liggett, which won the Division 3 state title last year, made a major move to Division 1 this season and earned the right to advance to the State Finals at Michigan State with a dominating 6-0 state quarterfinal victory over Sterling Heights Stevenson Tuesday afternoon at Wayne State University.
Liggett, 33-4 and ranked No. 2, played well defensively behind sophomore right-hander Alec Azar (9-2, 1.80 ERA) and was aggressive on the bases, taking extra bases and putting pressure on Stevenson’s defense.
“We can’t play any better than that and we’ve been playing like that all year and maybe now some people can open their eyes and say we’re not a little D4 team or a little D3 team, we’re as good as any program in the state and we’re coming to show it,” said Cimini of Liggett which has an enrollment of 280, going up against Division 1 schools five times the size.
“We got to the Final Four again which is absolutely insane, six times in the last seven years we’ve been to Michigan State or Battle Creek. I can’t pinch myself because that stuff just doesn’t happen.”
Liggett won Division 4 state championships in 2011 and ’13 and Division 3 state titles in 2014 and again last year. Liggett will play the winner of the quarterfinal between top-ranked Saline and Holt in a 11:30 a.m. semifinal Thursday at MSU.
Stevenson (31-10), which defeated defending Division 1 state champion Warren De La Salle in the regional on Saturday, managed just two hits off of Azar, failing to score after getting runners in scoring position in the second, third, fifth and seventh innings.
Azar struck out two and walked five while getting 10 ground- ball outs, including two double plays.
“That’s a very, very, very good baseball team over there and we couldn’t just let them tee off on fastballs so we had to keep them off balance,” said Cimini of Liggett’s strategy with Azar who got ground ball outs with runners in scoring position in the second and third innings, then teamed up with first baseman Jackson Walkowiak who made a great play on a hard hit grounder to get out of a jam in the fifth.
Stevenson got the first two batters on in the seventh before Azar got a strikeout, then a double play ball to end the game.
“I was trying to work my off speed pitches because they’re a great hitting team and I was just trying to trust my defense, get the ball over the plate and let them make some plays,” Azar said.
While Azar got the job done on the mound, it was junior second baseman Noah Miller who was the hero offensively.
Miller, from the cleanup spot, hit an RBI double in the opening inning to score Connor McCarron, then scored himself on a single by Teddy Wujek. Miller also singled and scored in the fourth to open up a 3-0 cushion.
“I knew I had to get a pitch to hit and I saw a first pitch curve that he (Zach Roth) hung and decided I couldn’t let it pass by me,” Miller said.
Northville 9, Rochester 5
Grand Haven 2, Saginaw Heritage 0
Grosse Pointe Woods 6, Sterling Heights Stevenson 0
Saline 3, Holt 2
Stevensville Lakeshore 3, Allendale 0
Chelsea 5, Corunna 4
Dearborn Divine Child 6, Macomb Lutheran North 2
Bay City John Glenn 11, Sault St. Marie 1 (5 inn.)
Madison Heights Bishop Foley 8, Riverview Gabriel Richard 0
Caro 2, Hemlock 0
Traverse City St. Francis 3, Grand Rapids West Catholic 0
Schoolcraft 6, Homer 1
Unionville-Sebewaing 4, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic 3
Portland St. Patrick 6, Muskegon Catholic Central 0
Hudson 3, St. Joseph Lake Michigan 2
Gaylord St. Mary 8, Rudyard 3