Milan basketball coaching staff shakeup: No assistant coaches returning in 2015-16; Bates named as replacement

Milan head basketball coach Chris Pope announced through his Facebook page yesterday that his coaching staff will have a different look for the 2015-16 season.

Two members of the Milan Big Red coaching staff will not return this winter. Brandon Schmidt (second from left) and Jesse Davis (far right) have taken coaching positions at Chelsea and Lincoln, respectively. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Three members of the Milan coaching staff from last season will not return. Head coach Chris Pope (second from right) named Elgin Bates (not pictured) as a replacement coach. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Two of Pope’s assistant coaches, who had also been with the Milan program under former head coach Josh Tropea, have left for bigger opportunities.

Jesse Davis, the uncle of former Big Red and current Youngstown State player Latin Davis, has been named the head coach at Lincoln. Davis takes over for Rich Marion, who stepped down at the end of last basketball season. The Railsplitters’ new coach will have the opportunity to coach Ty Groce, who decided to return to Lincoln for his senior season after initially saying he would transfer to Romulus.

Brandon Schmidt has taken a teaching position with the Chelsea school district and will join Tropea as a member of his coaching staff.

Pope and his Big Reds will play the former coaches during the upcoming season. The Railsplitters and Big Reds will face off in December at Lincoln, while Chelsea and Milan will play each other twice – once during the regular season, and during district play in March. The regular season game between the Bulldogs and Big Reds will be played on Milan’s floor.

Former Big Red 1,000-point scorer Elgin Bates, known in his high school days as EJ, will join his alma mater as an assistant coach. Bates played for Milan from 1991-93.  “I’m happy to bring aboard a fellow Milan alumni,” Pope said through a text message. “(Bates) is a great teacher of the game. He will bring a different skill set to the program.”

It was in the same series of texts that Pope announced that Latin Davis Sr. would not return, citing that he wanted to see his son play at Youngstown State.

Outside of the Facebook post, in which he considered the news ‘bittersweet’, Pope declined to comment on the departures of Jesse Davis and Schmidt.

The Big Reds begin the 2015-16 campaign on December 8 with a road game against Monroe.



Lindeman makes debut in right field in All-Star Game

On Wednesday night, former Milan Big Red Thomas Lindeman started in an unfamiliar place.

As if playing in a Major League ballpark wasn’t enough, the ex-Big Red – donning his black No. 10 jersey on Wednesday night – started in right field.

In a way, the start was fitting – given that a banner with his soon-to-be school, Eastern Michigan University, has a banner on the right-field wall.

Lindeman’s contribution on offense included a sacrifice fly that tied the ballgame at 3; his West All-Star squad lost the game 4-3. The West roster also included Saline’s Trent Theisen.

Randy Castro, a fellow journalist with MI Prep Zone, was in attendance. Read his recap here.

The Run is Over: Big Red baseball season ends with loss to Adrian in district final

The start to the district final at Chelsea High School on Monday afternoon between the Milan Big Reds and Adrian Maples was rather strange, given that they started their day in what was technically the middle of a game – the 4th inning with the score tied at 1 to be exact – but the finish was what mattered the most.

Isaac Grubke threw 4 2/3 innings of the district final contest against Adrian. (File photo / S. Dotson)

Isaac Grubke threw 4 2/3 innings of the district final contest against Adrian. (File photo / S. Dotson)

The Big Reds struggled to find a groove, as their 2015 season came to an end with a 5-2 loss.

Two Maple errors and a sacrifice squeeze bunt by Chase Riling led to Milan’s 2nd run of the game in the bottom of the 4th.

The lead, however, did not last long. As was the case a season ago, struggles with fundamentals led to Milan’s playoff demise.

The mistakes, which included a botched pickoff move and mis-executed double play attempt, led to four Maple runs in the top of the 5th – quickly turning a 2-1 Big Red lead to a 5-2 deficit. The production was more than enough for Matthew Clark, the Adrian starting pitcher bound for Michigan State in the near future, to control the contest.

Over the final four innings, only four Big Reds reached base – three of whom reached on an error. Clark, who gave up two hits on Saturday, gave up his only hit on Monday to Daniel Norzaimi in the bottom of the 5th.

“He was the best pitcher we’ve seen all year,” said Milan head coach Adam Gilles.

Milan concludes the season with a 30-10 record. The 30 wins accumulated by the Big Reds are second-most in program history, behind only the 2009 state champion team that won 34 contests.

“We were thinking we’d win about 20 to 25 games this year, and that was with Thomas (Lindeman) pitching about 10 games,” Gilles said. “We won 30 with Thomas pitching only two games. Everybody had a role on a team this year and contributed. That really helped us.

“I’m proud of the team. It (stinks) to go out like this, but we had a great season.”

* * *

Game stats

Hit leaders: Daniel Norzaimi 2; Jordan Hendricks 1 (only hits of game)

Run leaders: Beau Hotz, Zach Allen 1 each

RBI leaders: Hendricks & Chase Riling 1 each

Winning pitcher: Matthew Clark (Adrian) – CG (7 IP), 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 5 K

Losing pitcher: I. Grubke (Milan; 6-3) – 4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R (3 ER), BB

Milan takes down Chelsea in district semi-final, championship game delayed

The Milan Big Reds went into Chelsea on Saturday hoping for a chance at a district title. Their foes, the Chelsea Bulldogs, had other thoughts on their mind.

Zach Allen improved to 8-0 with Milan's 2-1 district semifinal win over Chelsea on Saturday. (File photo / Scott Dotson)

Zach Allen improved to 8-0 with Milan’s 2-1 district semifinal win over Chelsea on Saturday. (File photo / Scott Dotson)

The Big Reds, whose 2014 season ended against Chelsea in a pre-district contest, got their revenge. Milan won the game in thrilling fashion, advancing to the district final with a 2-1 win over the Bulldogs.

Saturday’s contest was largely a pitcher’s duel, until a late rally by the visiting Big Reds.

After squandering a chance to score in the 6th – loading the bases with no outs, forcing Chelsea starting pitcher Colin Steinhauer out of the game, then having the next three batters set down in order – Milan capitalized in the 7th.

Brendan Ferenczy and Thomas Lindeman each reached base to open the inning, Ferenczy with a one-out single and Lindeman on an error. After a walk to Isaac Grubke loaded the bases for the second time in as many innings, Ferenczy tied the game by scoring on a passed ball. Two batters later, Beau Hotz gave Milan the lead with a two-out single. The lead could have been extended had it not been for Grubke being thrown out at home.

Chelsea had their own chance to score with the bases loaded. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Zach Allen loaded the bases with a single, hit-by-pitch and intentional walk. Cam Starkey ended the game by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play, giving the Big Reds a stunning victory en route to the district championship game.

“Zach pitched a great game,” Milan head coach Adam Gilles said.

Lindeman, who recently discovered that there was no tear in his pitching arm as previously feared, started the game at second base and finished the contest 0-for-3 with one run scored. “It was nice having Thomas back in the lineup,” Gilles said. “I checked with him before the game (to see if he was good enough to play), and he said he was good to go.”

The second contest of the day was a back-and-forth game between Adrian and Ida. Adrian advanced to the championship game in the end, defeating the Blue Streaks 8-7.

The Big Reds struck first in the contest against the Maples, when Jordan Hendricks singled home Hotz in the 2nd. Adrian tied the game in the 4th on a flyout.

The game was then delayed by rain, and after a 30-minute delay, it was determined that the contest would need to be postponed. The game will resume on Monday at 4:30 p.m., with two outs in the top of the 4th and the score tied at 1.

“It was a weird day,” Milan head coach Adam Gilles said. “But going into Monday, I look at it with us having an advantage. We’re already in the district finals and it’s basically a 0-0 game, just in the 4th inning with two outs.”

Gilles plans to have Grubke – who started the title game on the mound and threw 41 pitches up to the point of the rain delay – continue to throw when play resumes Monday.

The winner of the wrap-up will advance to regionals on April 6 at Carleton Airport.

* * *

Game stats vs. Chelsea

Hit leaders: Hotz 2; four players w/ 1 hit each

Run leaders: Lindeman & Ferenczy 1 each

RBI leader: Hotz 1

Winning pitcher: Zach Allen (Milan; 8-0) – CG (7 IP), 8 H, R (unearned), 2 BB, 5 K

Losing pitcher: Matt Kimball (Chelsea) – 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R (both unearned), BB, 2 K



No tear in Lindeman’s shoulder after all

Call it a miracle, a surprise, or whatever you like: it turns out that the labrum in Thomas Lindeman’s throwing shoulder wasn’t torn after all.

Thomas Lindeman, shown here batting, leads the Milan Big Reds in six categories on offense. (File photo / S. Dotson)

Thomas Lindeman, shown here batting, leads the Milan Big Reds in six categories on offense. (File photo / S. Dotson)

Per a Facebook post by Thomas’ mother Tonya, doctors did not find a torn labrum as they expected to, but rather no issue at all in the senior utility player’s right shoulder.

Lindeman had been diagnosed with the torn labrum earlier this month. His season ended – unofficially – on May 27, as the team leader in six offensive categories. After the initial diagnosis, Lindeman was primarily held to the designated hitter role, but did see some time at second base and shortstop.

His playing status is still in doubt, but a possible return to the team would be huge for Milan; the Big Reds begin play in the district playoffs with a contest against Chelsea on Saturday. Milan lost to Chelsea last season in a pre-district game, which was also held at the Bulldogs’ field, by a 7-4 score.

The contest between the Big Reds and Bulldogs is set for a 10 a.m. start.

Bittersweet: Big Reds split series with Dundee on Senior Day

Although the senior class of the 2015 Milan Big Reds varsity baseball team is just four members strong, the group has had a successful time. The four seniors – Isaac Grubke, Beau Hotz, Thomas Lindeman and Cal Reed – reached the Final Four as sophomores and have cemented their names in the history books.

The 2015 senior class. From left to right: Isaac Grubke, Thomas Lindeman, Beau Hotz, Cal Reed.

The 2015 senior class. From left to right: Isaac Grubke, Thomas Lindeman, Beau Hotz, Cal Reed.

The Big Reds hoped to finish the season with a home sweep of the visiting Dundee Vikings on Friday, but came up one win short. Milan defeated Dundee 10-6 in game one, but lost a 4-3 heartbreaker in the nightcap.

A six-run 5th inning aided the Big Reds, as they expanded a 4-3 lead to 10-3. The home team built a 4-0 lead before surrendering three runs in the top half of the 5th. Each member of the senior class contributed throughout the contest; Cal Reed scored three runs, while the other seniors had at least one run batted in apiece.

“The seniors did everything you could have asked them to,” Big Red head coach Adam Gilles said.

The bulk of the offense in game two was scored in the contest’s opening inning. Dundee scored three runs to begin the game, while Milan answered with two of their own in the bottom of the 1st. The Vikings added an insurance run in the 3rd.

The Big Reds squandered a key scoring chance in the 6th. Milan had the bases loaded with no outs, as the home team was aided by two hit-by-pitches and a single. Pinch-hitter Jordan Hendricks lined out to Dundee centerfielder Zach Kopka; Kopka then fired a throw to second baseman Tyler Allen that doubled off Milan’s Zach Allen. Two batters later, Lindeman hit a drive to second, which Tyler Allen snagged for the final out of the inning.

“They legit beat us,” Gilles said, referring to the nightcap. “We made the mental mistake on the bases in the (6th), not tagging up when we’re screaming, ‘Tag, tag, tag’. Dundee’s outfield saved four or five runs today.

“I wish the seniors could go out with their 30th win, but it’s still the second-most wins in school history (with 29).”

Gilles also thought highly of the senior class, saying that the group is one of the better small senior classes he’s had as the Milan head coach. “They rank up there with the 2006/2007 class,” he said.

One of the seniors – Lindeman – played his final games as a Big Red against Dundee. The senior utility player, who played both games on Friday as the starting shortstop, will have surgery on the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder next week. He will miss the playoffs as a result.

Lindeman finishes his season leading Milan in six offensive categories, including batting average (.405), hits (53), singles (45), runs (52), and stolen bases (39).

“You can’t replace the way (Thomas) takes over the whole field,” Gilles said. “You can’t replace his baseball sense, his speed or the way he visualizes things before they happen.”

Milan finishes the regular season 29-9. The Big Reds finish this season with one more win than last year, taking over the second-highest win total in team history from the 2014 squad.

Milan will have an eight-day layoff, next playing in districts on May 30 in Chelsea.

* * *

Game 1 stats

Hit leaders: I. Grubke, Dan Armstrong 3 each; Lindeman & Daniel Norzaimi 2 each (team had 14 hits)

Run leaders: Reed 3; Lindeman & Hotz 2 each

RBI leaders: Jaden Riling 3; I. Grubke & Armstrong 2 each

Winning pitcher: Eric Price (Milan; 6-1) – 4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R (3 ER), BB, 7 K

Losing pitcher: Jay Briggs (Dundee) – 4 IP, 10 H, 4 R (3 ER), 3 BB, K

* * *

Game 2 stats

Hit leaders: Lindeman 2; six players w/ 1 hit each

Run leaders: Lindeman 2; I. Grubke 1

RBI leaders: I. Grubke, Norzaimi, Hotz 1 each

Winning pitcher: Gage Campbell (Dundee) – CG (7 IP), 8 H, 3 R (3 ER), BB, 3 K

Losing pitcher: Beau Hotz (Milan; 3-2) – 3 IP, 6 H, 4 R (4 ER), BB

SMCC-Milan game summary (Wednesday)

Final – Milan 4, SMCC 3 — Milan officially Huron League champions (had clinched at least a share of conference crown Monday)

Hit leaders: Isaac Grubke 3; Daniel Norzaimi 2 (team had 9 hits)

Run leaders: Chase Riling, Dan Armstrong, Brendon Ferenczy, Cal Reed 1 each

RBI leaders: Thomas Lindeman 2; I. Grubke, Zach Allen 1 each

Winning pitcher: I. Grubke (Milan; 6-2) – CG (7 IP), 6 H, 3 R (2 ER), BB, K

Losing pitcher: Sean Strube (SMCC) – IP, 2 H, R (unearned), BB, K

* * *

Game notes: Milan had 3-0 lead after two innings. SMCC tied the game in the bottom of the 6th (scored one run in the 5th, two in the 6th).

Winning play: Lindeman one-out single, top 7.

Final play of game: Runner picked off at 3rd base, runners were on 2nd and 3rd with two outs at the time.