The players on the diamond will decide the game, but there will be a special competition among the head coaches when Lakeview faces Grosse Pointe South in tournament play today.
Lakeview (32-5) will face Grosse Pointe South (26-17) in a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 baseball state semifinal contest today at Michigan State University. While the teams have never met this year, the head coaches are very familiar with each other as they were teammates in college.
Lakeview head coach Jeff Sovern and Grosse Pointe South head coach Dan Griesbaum played together at Central Michigan University. While they were teammates then, they will be in separate dugouts today.
“He’s a good friend and a good coach. We talked the day before yesterday (prior to the quarterfinals) about our games,” Sovern said. “He’s been the head coach there for 30 years so they are going to be solid, they are going to be a lot like us.
“It will be fun for us. Our old coach called both of us today, but he wouldn’t say who he’s going to root for.”
Sovern didn’t want to talk too much about his coaching rivalry, saying the focus should be on the players. But he did add his old friend figured it was a longshot that their two teams would meet in the semifinals today.
Grosse Pointe South had to upset No. 1-ranked Sterling Heights Stevenson, 2-0, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday to advance. Playing in the same league, Stevenson had beaten Grosse Pointe South three times this year by a combined score of 26-5.
“He said Stephenson had like seven Division 1 kids, so he didn’t know how well his team would do against them,” Sovern said. “But it only takes one game to beat a team like that and that’s what they did.”
Lakeview also came up big in the quarterfinals with a 9-5 win over No. 5 Saline.
“It was an awesome day. We wanted to put some pressure on them and we did. They booted some for us and we got enough done to win,” Sovern said.
Now Lakeview is a step away from playing for its first state championship since 2006. With a young team, the Spartans are hoping to keep playing as they have all season.
“I tell them, don’t put pressure on yourself. I told them, they’ve had a great year and to just keep playing as loose as they have been,” Sovern said. “But it’s hard not to feel pressure because all of this is pretty exciting. For 35 games you have just your parents in the stands and now some more fans are coming out and they’re cheering and it’s a whole different game.”
Gull Lake in semifinals
No. 4-ranked Gull Lake (30-9) will face Mt. Pleasant (30-8-1) in a Division 2 state semifinal today at Michigan State University.
Mt. Pleasant advanced with a 5-0 win over Gladwin. Mt. Pleasant went to the state title game in back-to-back seasons in 2007-08, winning it all in 2007.
Gull Lake is making its third appearance in the state semifinals, also advancing to this game in 2004 and 2011.
The Blue Devils had to get past Harper Creek in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday, winning, 3-1. Gull Lake, Harper Creek and Lakeview are all members of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division.
“The fact that we played each other in conference, I think that helped when it comes to these game,” Sovern said of Gull Lake. “Playing in the SMAC against those good teams is like playing in a playoff game, so we all get a little taste of it.
“I think Gull Lake has a shot. They are good club. Our players are good friends with a lot of those kids, they play against each other in the summer. Maybe we can get a couple of championships out of our conference this year.”
Times for today’s state semifinals for Lakeview and Gull Lake were changed late Tuesday night – basically flipping the two timeslots for the two games.
Lakeview will play Grosse Pointe South in a Division 1 state semifinal game at 11:30 a.m. today
Gull Lake will play Mt. Pleasant in a Division 2 state semifinal game at 2:30 p.m. today.
The reason for the change is that Grosse Pointe South has graduation ceremonies planned for tonight and they asked the MHSAA if it could play in the earlier game, so seniors could still get back for graduation.
The time change works out for Gull Lake also in that the Blue Devils are still in school and have finals set for today. The 2:30 p.m. game will allow students to take finals in the morning and still make the contest in the afternoon.
With the state finals being switched to Michigan State University this spring, there is less room for changes like this because all the games are played on one diamond. The tournament added an extra day to the semifinals/finals also.
For the past couple decades the MHSAA finals had been held in Battle Creek over two days and on three diamonds.
The irony of the switch happening this season wasn’t lost on the Lakeview coach.
“I wish it was still in Battle Creek, then we’d really get a crowd. I was thinking, why was this the year we had to change,” Sovern said. “But we’re excited about going to Michigan State. We get to play in another good facility and it will be fun for the kids to be in that atmosphere.”