In Play with Tom Markowski

Matt Gushee tosses a two-hitter, University Liggett eliminates Bishop Foley from the tournament again in Division 3 showdown

Baseball   | Tom Markowski

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Madison Heights – Sometimes when a player is in pickle just a few simple words are all that is necessary to get that player back on track.

When junior right-hander Matt Gushee got into trouble in the bottom of the seventh his coach came out to the mound to offer those words of encouragement.

With the potential tying runs on Gushee worked his way out of the jam and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett held on to defeat Madison Heights Bishop Foley (20-8), 3-1, in a Division 3 pre-district on Tuesday at Bishop Foley.

University Liggett (20-11) will play Clinton Township Clintondale in a district semifinal on Saturday at Bishop Foley at 10 a.m. The winner advances to the final later that day.

“A little anxiety kicked in,” Gushee said of the drama that took place. “I had to take a step back.”

His coach, Dan Cimini, took a trip to the mound when the Ventures put runners on first and second with one out. Gushee had pitched well all game and Cimini had no intention of removing his ace. He just wanted to remind him that the game was still in his hands.

“I told him to take a deep breath and let your defense help you,” Cimini said.

“Gushee beat them last year (in the tournament). He did a good job of keeping them off balance. Our shortstop (Connor McCarron) made some great plays out there. He’s got to be one of the top shortstops in the state. And our second baseman (Noah Miller) made some great plays, too.”   

The state tournament opened with two of the top teams in this division going head-to-head in what easily could have been a tensely-played quarterfinal or semifinal.

Last season University Liggett defeated Bishop Foley, then the defending state champion, in a regional final. The Knights went on to win the title.

Cimini said it’s unfair that two of the state’s top teams should meet in the first round. Cimini suggested teams could be seeded in a district and added that his team and Bishop Foley should not have been placed in the same district.

“This is a shame this had to happen,” he said. “No way should two of the top teams in D3 meet on a Tuesday.”

Gushee (7-2) allowed two hits, three walks and he struck out four. He retired the first nine batters before Nate Grys tripled and scored on a wild pitch that tied the game at 1-1.

The Knights took advantage of a number miscues by the Ventures. William Morrison reached base on an error in the first and scored on Nick Azar’s single.

Anthony George led off the fourth with a single. He stole second then went to third on a throwing error. With one out Joseph Cipriano grounded to shortstop to score George.

University Liggett added a run in the sixth to give Gushee a two-run cushion. With the bases loaded and one out Miller executed a suicide squeeze with two strikes to score George from third.

With one out in the seventh Mike Ryan doubled to left and a walk put two runners on prompting Cimini to have a conversation with Gushee. Gushee got Jacob Thomas to hit a pop up into shallow left field that McCarron made a fine play on and threw to Miller to double off Ryan at second.

Sophomore lefthander Justin Campbell took the loss for the Ventures. Campbell allowed three hits, four walks and one earned run.

“Playing (University Liggett) in a pre-district?” Bishop Foley coach Justin Robinson said. “That’s a little sketchy. It’s also exciting. It’s real. Had we’d won we would have earned it.”