East Lansing – Connor Ziparo pitched the game of his life Thursday to put Northville in the Division 1 state championship game at Michigan State.
Ziparo, a senior left-hander, carried a three-hit shutout into the final inning before Grand Haven got on the scoreboard in a 9-1 semifinal win.
Ziparo struck out five, including the final out, and got mobbed by his teammates in the celebration.
“Biggest game of my life,” said Ziparo, who improved to 7-2 and has a 1.20 ERA. “I’ve been all around the country playing in tournaments, but nothing beats that (semifinal win). There’s four teams left and now we’re one of two and that’s crazy. In November when we started working out in the weight room we talked about this kind of stuff and it’s a dream come true.”
So, what worked for Ziparo?
“The fastball was working,” Ziparo said. “I struggled finishing on the curveball, but the fastball, I could put it both sides of the plate so that was really the go-to pitch, the two-seam fastball.”
This will be Northville’s first state title game appearance after losing in the Class B state semifinals 45 years ago. Northville will play top-ranked Saline for the championship 9 a.m. Saturday at MSU.
Grand Haven (24-16), which entered the postseason with a 19-15 record before earning its first regional title, failed to get the key hit and struggled defensively at times.
Northville jumped on Grand Haven’s Sean Casey for two runs in the first on a two-run single by junior third baseman Jake Moody.
“It was an outside change-up,” Moody said. “He threw an outside fastball right before that so I just stepped across and pushed it to right field and got them both in.”
Kevin Morrissey and Billy Flohr led Northville’s nine-hit attack with a single and triple apiece.
Ziparo stranded a runner on third in the top of the fourth, striking out Brandon Tuuk to keep a 3-0 lead.
Northville (30-10) scored a run in the fourth, then added three more in the fifth and two in the sixth to take command.
Ziparo retired the first two batters in the fifth on groundouts, then caught Brady Jonas looking. Northville broke the game open in the bottom half of the inning when Aram Shahrigian doubled, stole third and scored on an error before Jack Sargent hit an RBI triple and scored on Michael Lionas’ sacrifice fly.
Northville coach John Kostrzewa collected his 350th career win and likes how his pitching stacks up for the title game with junior standouts Ben Schmidt and Jonathan Michalak ready to go to work in the biggest game in school history.
“We feel really good about our pitching, real happy with how much we have going into Saturday,” Kostrzewa said. “We had a great pitching outing on Tuesday (quarterfinal win over Rochester) with Jon Michalak, and Ben Schmidt has been outstanding. Both of them will be available.”
Northville 9, Grand Haven 1
Saline 12, Grosse Pointe Liggett 0
Final: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Stevensville Lakeshore 7, Chelsea 1
Bay City John Glenn 15, Dearborn Divine Child 4
Final: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Madison Heights Bishop Foley vs. Caro, 9 a.m.
Traverse City St. Francis vs. Schoolcraft, 11:30 a.m.
Final: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Portland St. Patrick, 2:30 p.m.
Hudson vs. Gaylord St. Mary, 5 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 5 p.m.