Big Reds take in special day at Comerica Park: JV victorious, varsity suffers tough loss against Detroit Country Day

For any ballplayer, regardless of age, playing in a Major League ballpark can be a unique experience.

The Big Reds played at Comerica Park on Monday, with the Tigers scoreboard making it official. (Photo by Joel Dotson)

The Big Reds played at Comerica Park on Monday, with the Tigers scoreboard making it official. (Photo by Joel Dotson)

The junior varsity and varsity teams for Milan and Detroit Country Day shared that on Monday; the JV team won their game 5-2 in six innings, while varsity surrendered the lead late to lose 8-6 in regulation.

Both teams were allowed free substitutions throughout the contests. All 18 players for the junior varsity entered the game at various points and positions, as did the varsity’s roster during their match. Each of Milan’s teams used six pitchers in the games.

The matches, however, were close to not being reality.

The staff of the Tigers did not tarp the field despite rain on Sunday night, not realizing that high school teams were to play there the following afternoon. Games with other high schools, that were supposed to follow the two contests with Milan and Detroit Country Day, were cancelled as a result of the mix-up.

The players on both teams had to play under special conditions due to the issues with the field. Only pitchers were allowed to wear cleats, while position players were limited to wearing tennis shoes. To shorten game time in each contest, each at-bat began with batters having a 1-1 count.

The JV game got underway nearly an hour-and-a-half behind schedule, and due to time constraints, had a shortened contest.

Milan struck early, scoring two runs in the first inning. A walk, three hits and two Yellowjacket errors aided the inning.

Four hits, an error and sac fly led to three Big Red runs in the 5th. Country Day responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.

The Yellowjackets stranded two runners in the 6th, giving Milan the three-run victory.

JV coach Steven Price was thrilled at the experience, both for him and his players. “It was once in a lifetime,” he said by text message. “It’s something I never expected to experience as a coach. As a staff, it was a chance for us to feel like we were a kid – 10 years old – and remember why we coach. We all love the game, and seeing the kids get a chance to express that tonight was incredible.

“Winning was icing on the cake. As much talk as there is about experience, you get in that dugout and in the coaching box – and the competitive juices start flowing. We got two runs in the top of the 1st and the nerves were gone. It was another game you wanted to win. To have 18 kids play the way they did today and contribute to a win here is something special.”

The varsity, like their counterparts, took a commanding lead midway through their game.

Trailing 1-0, Milan combined for 5 runs in the 3rd and 4th innings. Jared Grubke hit a key two-RBI single that followed three straight hits – by Aaron Taylor, Brendan Ferenczy and Jaden Riling – that began the rally.

Milan added an insurance run in the top of the 6th, taking a 6-2 lead into the bottom half, but things slipped away during the latter part of the inning.

Country Day began the inning with a leadoff walk and back-to-back singles, loading the bases for leadoff hitter Steve Mann. Mann drove a ball into the left-field corner to narrow Milan’s lead to 6-5, but was thrown out attempting to advance to 3rd base for the first out of the inning.

Yellowjacket rightfielder Mike MacLean drove home a run on an RBI triple that tied the game at 6, with Will Krushena giving Country Day the lead in the next at-bat. Three batters later, Jeremiah Tyler – who began the inning with the leadoff walk – drove Krushena home to extend the lead to 8-6.

Milan attempted to rally in the 7th, when Jordan Hendricks hit a one-out double, and the next two batters drew walks. Antonio Walker was then called out on strikes, and Dan Armstrong ended the game with a groundout to short.

Despite the loss, varsity head coach Adam Gilles was happy with the overall experience. “It was pretty fun,” he said after the game. “It would have been fun to win, but we played pretty well. We talked about coming into last Friday’s game with a little bit of juice to get things flowing a bit. I think we’re going to leave today with that juice, which is what we need with a bunch of games coming up.

“We got a good learning experience from it. We hung in there with (Country Day). They have five Division I athletes on their roster, and they threw their ace pitcher for four innings – and we hit him. That’s what’s good for us; we needed to see that.”

The coach – in his 15th season with Milan – said his players had fun. “The kids came in… running down in the tunnel, trying to go in the batting cages,” he said. “I’m just happy that the kids got to experience this. It was pretty sweet.”

Gilles played at Comerica Park as part of a “Field of Dreams” summer camp in the past, and had the opportunity to coach in the visiting 1st-base dugout on Monday. “I can say I’ve been in both dugouts and played and coached here now,” he said. “I was in the 3rd-base dugout with the Field of Dreams, and now I’ve coached in the 1st-base dugout.”

Grubke said that he and his teammates had a fun experience. “It was awesome,” he said. “Everybody played real excited, and we were happy to be here and have fun. We played real well and that helped us. We haven’t played real well (lately), but we came out here and had fun.

“The hits that Chase (Riling) and Jordan (Hendricks) had would have been out on any other field and that gives us a lot of confidence – knowing that we’re going to come out and put the ball in play no matter who we play.”

Grubke said the overall experience was surreal. “It’s crazy to think about, being in the dugout that MLB players (have been) in,” he said. “My great-grandma is a huge Tigers fan, and I can’t wait to talk to her about it.”


Milan to host baseball district

The Milan Big Reds will host a baseball district at the end of May.

The teams in the district are Adrian, Chelsea, Onsted, Tecumseh and Milan.

The Big Reds have faced Adrian and Chelsea in the playoffs over the last two seasons. Milan lost to Chelsea in a pre-district game in 2014 but defeated them in last year’s playoffs, while Adrian defeated the Big Reds in last season’s district final at Chelsea.

The bracket for the 2016 district is as follows:

Adrian vs. Tecumseh – Tuesday 5/31, 4:30 pm start — winner plays Chelsea on Friday 6/3 at 2:30 pm

Milan vs Onsted – 6/3, 5 pm

District final – 6/3, 7 pm

2016 baseball walkup songs

Organized by jersey number. Players with two jersey numbers will be at the bottom.

Josh Hall (No. 1) – “Work” / ASAP Ferg

Antonio Walker (No. 2) – “Really Really” / Kevin Gates

Eric Price (No. 3) – “Can’t Tell Me Nothin'” / Kanye West

Chase Riling (No. 5) – “6 Foot 7 Foot” / Lil Wayne

Dan Armstrong (No. 7) – “Bricks” / Migos

Jared Grubke (No. 8) – “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” / Big & Rich

Jackson Pahle (No. 11) – “Get Like Me” / David Banner

Jaden Riling (No. 13) – “Maad City” / Kendrick Lamar

Brendan Ferenczy (No. 15) –“Bickin’ Back Bein Bool” /  YG

Zach Allen (No. 16) – “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” / Kanye West

Daniel Norzaimi (No. 17) – “Ain’t No Time” / Future

Denver Jackson (No. 18) – “Undefeated” / KB

Jordan Sparks (No. 4/23) – “Electric Body” / A$AP Rocky

Aaron Taylor (No. 6/12) – “Loud” / T Mills

Jordan Hendricks (No. 21/9) – “P.I.M.P” / 50 Cent

2016 baseball preview: Big Reds aim to keep winning

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article stated that Milan won the Division 2 state title in 2009. The error has since been corrected.

The 2015 Milan Big Reds baseball team had a successful season, winning the Huron League title for the first time in 6 years and winning the second-most games in program history. The team’s 30 wins were only four shy of the 2009 Big Reds.

Last season ended in a district final loss to Adrian at Chelsea High, marking the second straight campaign that wrapped up on the Chelsea baseball field.

The Big Reds will have to replace the contributions of Isaac Grubke, Beau Hotz and Thomas Lindeman; Grubke and Hotz were key pitchers for Milan in 2015 – throwing the second and fourth-most innings, respectively – as well as producers on the offensive end; Lindeman was a team leader in six offensive categories.

In addition, Cody Brierley and Konrad Jeppesen will not return to the team. Brierley decided to focus on his future in football, as he will play for Concordia University Ann Arbor next year, while Jeppesen injured his arm in the fall and needed Tommy John surgery. Brierley was a power threat for Milan in 2015, while Jeppesen was one of six Big Reds to pitch 23 or more innings last year and held the second-lowest ERA (1.28) of any pitcher.

Head coach Adam Gilles, now in his 15th season at the helm, has high expectations for his team. “We always have lofty expectations,” he said. “We were the (Huron) League champs last year, and that’s what we want to do again. Losing three of our top four hitters hurt, but we have a lot of experience coming back.

“Our pitching depth is the biggest question mark right now. We have a lot of guys who can throw, but only Zach (Allen), Jaden (Riling) and Eric (Price) are proven varsity starters. I think our defense and offense will be solid.”

Gilles is not concerned with the team’s positional depth. “We have a lot of athletes,” the head coach said. “When you have athletes on your team, that means they can play a lot of positions.”

The team will face some challenges heading into the season, as top pitchers Allen and Riling – who Gilles considers to be part of the top three in the rotation – have been dealing with arm fatigue. The timetable for their returns are unknown. Despite the questions with the rotation, Gilles is more concerned with the health of the duo. “We don’t know how long it will be until they’re ready (to play again),” he said. “Not knowing (when they will be back) is the issue. After that, we have a lot of guys who can pitch, but don’t have much experience.”

The head coach plans on using pitchers by committee until Allen and Riling return. Despite the uncertainty, Gilles hopes that they can each throw an inning on Saturday, when the Big Reds play a doubleheader against Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard. “I’d really like to have them back by April 11,” he said.

The Huron League conference schedule begins that day with a road contest against Monroe Jefferson.

The Big Reds will also be shorthanded heading into the first few games, as Aaron Taylor suffered a head injury in practice and will miss at least five days, ruling him out for the team’s first 4 contests.

The 2016 season is scheduled to begin on Wednesday with a road doubleheader against Ypsilanti; the opening contest is set for a 4 p.m. start.

The home opener against Taylor Kennedy on April 6 will also be at 4 p.m.

* * *

Coaching staff: Head coach Adam Gilles (15th season, 324-142-4 record), assistant coaches Blue Livingston, Vaughn Price and Randy Smith

Saying goodbye: Four seniors graduated from the 2015 squad, three of whom were major contributors. Isaac Grubke, Beau Hotz and Thomas Lindeman provided a lot of offense; Lindeman led the team in six offensive categories, while the former two were second and fourth in innings pitched in 2015.

Welcome back: Milan will feature 12 returning players: Aaron Taylor (P/UTIL, Sr.), Eric Price (P/OF, Sr.), Chase Riling (C, Jr.), Dan Armstrong (P/2B/3B/SS, Sr.), Jordan Sparks (P/2B, Sr.), Jared Grubke (C/3B, Jr.), Jackson Pahle (P/1B, Sr.), Jaden Riling (P/2B/3B/SS, Soph.), Brendan Ferenczy (P/OF, Sr.), Zach Allen (P/2B/SS, Sr.), Daniel Norzaimi (C/OF, Sr.), and Jordan Hendricks (P/1B, Sr.).

Ten of the twelve are in their second season playing varsity.

Allen and Chase Riling provide the most experience; Allen will be in his fourth year on the varsity level, while Riling will be in his third.

New faces: The Big Reds have three new players joining the varsity team – Josh Hall (OF, Sr.), Antonio Walker (P/2B/SS/OF, Soph.), and Denver Jackson (P/1B, Jr.).

2016 Milan baseball schedule

Black – away/Red – home/Blue – neutral site

* – league game (unless otherwise noted)

Note: Belleville game (originally 4/9) yet to be rescheduled.


Wed 3/30 @ Ypsilanti (DH) – 4 & 5:30 PM — W 16-1; W 10-0


Wed 4/6 vs Taylor Kennedy – 4 PM – W 7-0

Wed 4/13 vs Carleton Airport* – 4:30 PM – L 11-1 (0-1 Huron League)

Thurs 4/14 @ Monroe Jefferson* – 4:30 PM (rescheduled from 4/11) – L 3-2 (0-2 HL)

Sat 4/16 @ Plymouth (DH) – 11 AM & 1 PM – L 16-1; W 7-4

Mon 4/18 @ NB Huron* – 4:30 PM – W 5-4 (1-2 HL)

Wed 4/20 @ Riverview* – 4:30 PM – W 13-3 (2-2 HL)

Sat 4/23 @ Chelsea, @ Harper Creek (Chelsea HS) – 10 AM & 12 noon – L 8-1; L 4-3

Mon 4/25 @ Flat Rock* – 4:30 PM – W 8-1 (3-2 HL)

Wed 4/27 vs Grosse Ile (DH) – 4:30 & 6 PM — 1st game counts for league standings, 2nd is exhibition — L 2-0; W 3-2 (3-3 HL)


Mon 5/2 @ Detroit Country Day (@ Comerica Park) – 4:45 PM – L 8-6

Tues 5/3 vs SMCC* – 4:30 PM – L 3-0 (3-4 HL)

Fri 5/6 vs Monroe Jefferson* – 4:30 PM – W 1-0 (4-4 HL)

Sat 5/7 @ Salem (DH) – 11 AM & 1 PM – L 6-3; L 11-1

Mon 5/9 @ Carleton Airport* – 4:30 PM – L 5-4 (4-5 HL)

Wed 5/11 vs NB Huron* – 4:30 PM – W 4-2 (5-5 HL)

Fri 5/13 @ Manchester (DH) – 4 & 5:30 PM – W 3-0; W 10-1

Mon 5/16 vs Riverview (DH) – 4 & 5:30 PM — 1st game counts for league standings, 2nd is exhibition — W 5-4; W 9-8 (6-5 HL)

Tues 5/17 vs Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard – (@ EMU’s Oestrike Stadium) – 4 PM – L 8-1

Wed 5/18 vs Flat Rock* – 4:30 PM – L 9-3 (6-6 HL)

Sat 5/21 vs Summit Academy (DH) – 9:30 & 11 AM — W 15-0 (4 inn.); W 12-4

Mon 5/23 @ Grosse Ile – 4:30 & 6 PM — 1st game counts for league standings, 2nd is exhibition — W 14-4; W 7-3 (7-6 HL)

Wed 5/25 @ SMCC* – 3:30 PM – W 8-1 (8-6 HL)

Fri 5/27 vs Ann Arbor Huron – 4:30 PM (Senior Night) – W 4-3

Tues 5/31 @ Dundee (DH) – 4 & 6 PM – L 6-2; L 8-3


Fri 6/3 – vs Onsted (Districts) – 5 pm – L 4-1



Former Big Red Turnage, Saginaw Valley State fall to Western Oregon in Division 2 Tournament

CJ Turnage turned heads on the basketball court during his four years at Milan High School, and also has become one of the more valuable players on the Saginaw Valley State basketball team.

The season was a historic one for the Cardinals, as they tied a program record with 25 wins and reached the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time in team history.

CJ Turnage, a former Milan standout, scored a total of 49 points in three Division II Tournament games. (Photo courtesy of Neil Barris / Saginaw News)

CJ Turnage, a former Milan standout, scored a total of 49 points in three Division II Tournament games. (Photo courtesy of Neil Barris / Saginaw News)

Unfortunately for Turnage and the Cardinals, their run in the Tournament ended on Wednesday night in the Elite 8, as they fell to Western Oregon 81-68.

Turnage, who averaged 16.9 points per game in his junior season, scored 12 points in 33 minutes against the Wolves.

Saginaw Valley began the tournament with an 80-65 win over Lewis, in which Turnage scored 20 points. The Cardinals followed up that win by defeating Wisconsin-Parkside 92-77 and Ferris State 63-61. The 6-foot-5 forward scored 19 points in the former contest, while netting 8 in the latter game.

Turnage, who started every game this season for Saginaw, averaged 28 minutes per game while shooting 54.8 percent from the field. In his three-year career – 85 career games, 79 of which he started – he has averaged 15.9 points per game.

The junior crossed the 1,000-point threshold earlier this season, just as he did at Milan four seasons ago.

Information from contributed to reporting in this story.

Perkins scores team-high 20 points in Buffalo loss to Miami

The Michigan presence on the Buffalo Bulls is quite high, but former Milan Big Red Nick Perkins outshined the rest.

Nick Perkins (33) led Buffalo with 20 points in their loss to Miami (FL) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mulville / Buffalo News)

Nick Perkins (33) led Buffalo with 20 points in their loss to Miami (FL) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mulville / Buffalo News)

Despite Buffalo’s 79-72 loss to the Miami (FL) Hurricanes on Thursday night, Perkins scored a team and career-high 20 points.

Two 3-pointers by the freshman forward aided the Bulls early, putting Buffalo up 15-6 five minutes into the ballgame.

The Hurricanes took a 27-25 lead with 4:15 remaining in the first half and never trailed again.

Buffalo sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden cut the lead to 72-68 with 2 minutes to go, but the four-point margin would be the closest the Bulls would get.

Perkins, who helped lead Milan to a state championship two years ago, was 6-for-12 from the field and 4-for-6 from three-point range. He fouled out of the game with 33 seconds left, the Bulls trailing 75-69 at the time.

The loss ends Buffalo’s successful run, as the team rallied behind several instances of adversity throughout the season. Nate Oats, who coached Romulus before leaving for the college ranks, ends his first season as the team’s head coach with a 20-15 record.

Buffalo’s NCAA Tournament bid ended for the second straight year in the first round; last season, they lost to West Virginia.