Northville baseball beats Brother Rice 2-1 in state finals

The relief pitcher posted a win over top-ranked Brother Rice to secure Northville its first state title in program history.

After Saturday’s Division 1 baseball championship, pitcher Caden Besco lagged far behind his teammates as they left Michigan State University’s McLane Stadium, hanging his head so no one could see his face.

But not because he was disgusted with himself for blowing a save.

No, far from it.

The Northville senior just didn’t want anyone to see him cry tears of joy.

Much like Lansing Community College’s deployment in the postseason games leading up to the No. 3 Mustangs’ first state final appearance since 2017, he had surgery in support of the mound.

Besco struck out four of the 12 batters he faced, bailing Northville out of two jams and closing the door on top-ranked Brother Rice for a 2-1 win, securing the Mustangs their first state title in program history.

More: This is why Northville baseball coach Dan Cimini gave the game ball to the “Junkyard Dog.”

“We’ve been playing together since we were 7-8 years old, and many of us were in Broncos (Northville’s youth program) or played against each other,” said Besco, whose fellow seniors were among the favorites. to win the state championship in each of the past three seasons. “To finish this with these guys in my senior year really brings tears to my eyes right now. I didn’t expect to cry, but these are tears of happiness.

“We always expected this once we got to Northville (high school). To do this our senior year? It’s just absolutely incredible.”

It was an emotional ride for everyone from the start – not just Besco.

Northville (32-7) got on the scoreboard first, scoring both runs in the third inning.

Carson Eaton doubled down the foul line in left field. One at bat, Trevor Schueller moved Eaton to third base with a bunt. However, a passed ball on the play allowed Eaton to score. Shortly thereafter, Carter Jurcisin topped the throw to first base, giving Nolan Coppens enough time to race home and make it a 2-0 game.

The Warriors (44-2) wasted no time responding during the bottom of the frame. Owen Turner singled down the left field line to drive in Max Orozco and cut the Warriors’ deficit to just one run.

More: Northville baseball defeats Bay City Western to reach the Division 1 state finals

And then things almost got out of hand for the Mustangs in the fourth. Starter Evan Deak put two Warriors on base, including Brother Rice’s Ty Fox, putting him in scoring position on Cole Van Ameyde’s double to left field. Even though there were two outs, Deak didn’t get a chance to redeem himself.

Coach Dan Cimini pulled the senior, who scattered five hits over 3 2/3 innings, for Besco.

“The reason for that is I wanted the momentum,” said the first-year coach, who left Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett after 17 years and five state championships to take over Northville this spring. “We lost the momentum. The referee was putting pressure on him a little bit. It was tight for the pitchers. I’m not saying it was the referee’s fault. He (Deak) was missing by a little bit, and we could we don’t.” afford that at that moment.

“We had to turn the momentum around, and we did that. He wanted to stay in, but he did what he had to do for us, and Caden came in and did what he had to do for us.”

Besco walked Orozco, the first batter he faced, to load the bases, but his defense recorded an out in left field on the next at bat to escape the jam.

“All credit to Caden Besco,” Deak said. “That guy is a dog on the hill. He has been one of the best players, if not the best player on our team here. I can’t give him and my teammates enough praise here today.”

And that’s saying something, because Northville’s bullpen also includes Michigan’s Justin Brown, who struck out six in a 9-2 win over Bay City Western in Thursday’s state semifinal before Besco relieved him as well.

But Besco again proved why he deserved that praise when he crushed the Warriors’ last chance at a comeback in the sixth by turning a double play.

As Brother Rice’s Broder Katke took off at first base, Tristan Crane lasered a line drive straight toward Besco’s head. Besco reacted quickly and covered his face with his glove. Still, he somehow caught the ball, recovered and threw it to first baseman Joey Broughton for the booming play.

One inning later, Besco struckout the last two batters he faced.

“It was 3-0, and I should never have lost 3-0 (three balls, no hits), but I did,” Besco recalls. “I honestly didn’t expect him to swing, so I just tried to throw it over the plate. He swung, and I’d like to think I saw it, but I was just trying to protect myself. But it didn’t happen .” landed in my glove. It was incredible.”

Almost as incredible as the Mustangs finally winning a state title.

In their only other last state appearance, they lost 5-2 to Saline in 2017.

More: Northville baseball beats Lakeland in the semifinals and will host the regional final against Churchill

Two years ago, they were talented enough to return to MSU, but lost 7-2 to Battle Creek Lakeview in the quarterfinals.

And last year? Oof.

Last year’s result would still be painful had it not been for the championship trophy they lifted on Saturday.

Northville was favored to win it all last spring, especially after sweeping through the Kensington Lakes Activity Association and then sending Livonia Churchill to the district championship.

But then it ran into rival Novi, a team it defeated in the regional semifinals earlier this year.

While it wasn’t exactly a breakout game for pitcher Uli Fernsler, who committed to TCU this offseason, it certainly put him on the map.

Harvard signee Andrew Abler gave Novi four solid innings on the mound, before the then-sophomore came in and finished off the upset 6-2 victory by striking out three Mustangs to close the door.

As everyone knows, beating Northville, then No. 1 in the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association, inspired Novi to win the regional championship and defeat Lakeview and Mattawan in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Fernsler capped off the miraculous postseason run by tossing the Wildcats past Brownstown Woodhaven to secure their first state title in program history.

That could have been the Mustangs. They were this close to that same dream season.

Instead, their longtime coach, John Kostrzewa, a 2018 MHSBCA Hall of Famer inductee who spent 19 years with the program, resigned. And in turn, Cimini left state power Liggett to finally get Northville over the hump.

“It means the world,” Cimini said. “That was the goal. These guys wouldn’t have done it. The school had never won one in 115 years of baseball. We are team 115. We won the state championship. That was our goal from the moment we got in the pool jumps, training in November. Everything paid off. I told them, ‘You’re going to look back and realize that everything you did in the offseason was going to be worth it,’ and it was.

More: Photos: Northville-Bay City Western D1 Baseball State Semifinal

With all that blood, sweat and tears to get the Mustangs here, you have to excuse the emotion they showed during the postseason, including Deak angrily stomping into the dugout after being pulled for Besco.

It’s not Deak’s fault. He just wanted to win the state title so badly.

“I think I let my emotions get the better of me,” Deak said. “I wasn’t happy at first, but I tried to be the best I could be for my team. I wanted that match so bad, so I went a little over the top there. But I sat back and realized that I’m I have to put my trust in my coach. He got us this far, all the way to the fourth inning of the state championship at that point, so I had to trust him for three morning innings that we were going to win this thing.”

Deak spent the break between innings cooling down. And then he gave Besco words of encouragement.

“After he closed the door in that inning (by coming out of the bases-loaded jam), I came back and told him, ‘I have all the confidence in the world in you,’” Deak recalled.

And almost an hour later, Besco was chased at home plate by his teammates and Cimini.

Their senior class of 16 finally did it. Finally they have made program history.

“Man, I tell you what,” Deak shouted to his teammates before they took the stage for the trophy celebration. “At the time I was angry, but it was honestly the best thing that could have ever happened to us. If I had stayed there, I don’t know if we would have won it, but I’m just so thankful for Caden Besco.”

Brandon Folsom covers high school sports in metro Detroit for Hometown Life. Follow him on Twitter @folsombrandonj.