NEW LOTHROP — New Lothrop’s baseball team was in good hands with sure-handed shortstop Kollin Lienau this past spring.
The senior captain made just one error all season. But he had to battle through a broken left hand (his glove hand) to do it.
Lienau — who also hit .419 from the lead-off spot with an on-base percentage of .522. — has been voted The 2019 Argus-Press All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
“I would say I’m surprised, yeah, for sure,” Lienau said. “There are a lot of great players around here.”
The 6-2, 177-pounder led the 29-10-1 Hornets to a share of the MMAC championship with Chesaning and New Lothrop went on to win a Division 3 district title before being ousted in the regional finals by Saginaw Valley Lutheran, 8-3.
Lienau didn’t miss a beat in the field after suffering the injury but missed about three weeks in the batting lineup. He simply couldn’t grip a bat.
The injury occured nine games into the season on April 25.
“I had a broken hand, by the pinky, the fifth metacarpal,” Lienau said. “And it shifted the bone out. It’s fully healed now. I got hit by a pitch againt Bishop Foley. And it was all black. I took a couple of days off. And then we were playing Chesaning the next week and, I was still hitting at the time, but a kid hit one up the middle and I dove for it and it hit like right in that spot. I got the kid out but the ball had hit it (the glove-hand pinky) and I felt something wasn’t right.”
A few minutes later, he realized how serious it was.
“Coach (Ben Almasy) came out to talk to the pitcher (Cam Orr) and I walked up to the mound and I took my glove off,” Lienau said. “I could see right away, the whole hand was shifted down. It was black. And I told coach after the game, ‘I probably should sit a couple of games without hitting. I can still play the field. But with my hand the way it is, I don’t think I’m going to be very productive batting.’ ”
Lienau wore a cast on the left hand but took the cast off when he went on the field. It made the healing process move faster, he said.
“I got a cast and I wore it when I wasn’t doing baseball activities or anything,” Lienau said. “That helped a little.”
Almasy said that Lienau’s courage in playing through the injury showed teammates how important the season was to the senior.
“He played with a broken hand and that says a lot right there,” Almasy said. “And to make one error and to hit the way that he did. Kollin went through a lot just for the team. He could have easily sat out — he knows where he’s going to school. But he didn’t. He was a rock. And he’s the hardest-working player I’ve ever seen.”
Lienau got back in the hitting order for the final 10 games of the season. At first he wore a brace and then put a batting glove over the top of it and it made squeezing the bat easier.
Lienau does remember the one error he made in the field.
“Ya, the Mt. Morris game,” Lienau said. “The lefty hit it in the hole. I fielded it. Threw it off my back foot. It was a little low and the first baseman couldn’t scoop it.”
Lienau even pitched a little this season.
“I hadn’t pitched since my sophomore year.,” Lienau said. “I didn’t pitch at all last year and this year we had three back-to-back games — three doubleheaders. And coach asked me if I could pitch. And I ended up throwing a complete game (vs. Charyl Stockwell from Howell). I gave up two runs. And from then on he said, ‘I’d really like to use you in relief and maybe you can start a couple more games.’ I was up for it, whatever coach needed.”
Almasy said that Lienau was a lifesaver on the mound.
“He stepped up and he won some games for us this year,” Almasy said.
When asked what he prided himself the most in, defense, batting or pitching, Lienau said all three.
“Overall, I just tried to be consistent with everything — whether it was defense, offense or pitching,” Lienau said.
Lienau has been a four-year baseball standout at New Lothrop but has also been a stellar basketball player for the Hornets.
“I started playing baseball at the age of four and basketball at six,” Lienau said. “Baseball is just a sport that I love the most. Basketball was great too. I had a blast with that but I just felt like I was probably better at baseball. Basketball is a lot of wear and tear on your body.”
Lienau enjoyed being a part of four league titles, four district crowns, two regional titles and one state finals appearance as a freshman.
Lienau said he played outfield in 2016 when New Lothrop advanced to the state title game in Division 3 in Almasy’s first year at New Lothrop.
“I played left field and I played DH for some of the games — which I was fine with,” Lienau said. “The seniors were all great players and they set the bar for all of the young guys.”
One of the games he remembers most from that season (New Lothrop’s 41-4 team in 2016) came in the state quarterfinals when New Lothrop rallied to beat Standish-Sterling, 6-5.
“We were down 5-0 going into the bottom of the seventh,” Lienau said. “I didn’t end up hitting (in that inning) but I pinch ran.”
Lienau will continue his baseball career at the collegiate level. He’ll be playing for Delta College while he pursues a career in sports management.
All-Area Baseball Team
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Kollin Lienau, New Lothrop
The Hornet senior played with broken left hand for much of the season, but still committed just one error at shortstop. Lienau — who couldn’t grip a bat for several weeks — still finished with a .419 batting average and an on-base percentage of .522. The captain delivered 31 hits, 19 RBIs and 42 runs. The second-team Division 3 All-Stater was selected The Argus-Press All-Area Player of the Year while leading New Lothrop to a 29-10-1 record, a share of the MMAC crown, a district title and a berth in the regional championship game.
Michael James, Chesaning
James compiled a 6-2 season record with a 1.44 earned run average. The junior — a first-team All-MMAC all-star — struck out 51 and walked 19 while yielding just nine earned runs in 43 2/3 innings. He helped Chesaning win a share of the MMAC crown.
Sayer Robinson, Durand
Robinson posted an earned run average of 2.24 through 50 innings of work. The senior right-hander struck out 51 and walked just 11. Robinson, 5-3 on the season, was named to the All-MMAC first team. He also doubled as a catcher and batted a team-high .389 while stroking 28 hits with 19 RBIs.
Brady Birchmeier, New Lothrop, C, P, 1B
Birchmeier, a freshman, led the area with a .496 batting average and also led the area with 56 hits. He was named to the All-MMAC First Team as a utility player.
Cam Orr, New Lothrop, C, P, 3B
Orr batted .368 with an area-best 45 RBIs. The first-team All-MMAC infielder was also one of the area’s best pitchers, producing an 8-1 record with a 2.11 earned run average. The sophomore struck out 49 and walked 23 in 53 innings.
Austin Randall, Laingsburg, C, 2B
Randall delivered a .461 batting average — second highest in the area — for the Wolfpack. The first team All-CMAC player banged 35 hits and stole 21 bases. He added two homers and 11 RBIs.
Bryce Daniel, Perry, INF
Daniel delivered a .443 batting average. The junior scored 34 runs and drew 20 walks. He was named to the GLAC first-team all-star unit.
Brenden Shooltz, Perry, OF
Shooltz captured first-team GLAC recognition after batting .432. He stroked 36 hits and drove in 23 runs.
Josh Elliott, Laingsburg, SS
Elliott batted .419 with 36 hits, 20 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He was a second team All-CMAC pick for coach Todd Randall’s squad.
Jacob Huhn, Byron, 1B
Huhn led the Eagles attack by batting .394 with an on-base-percentage of .581. The junior laced six doubles and drove in 29 runs.
Jacob Turnwald, Chesaning, SS
Turnwald batted .347 this season with 34 hits and 16 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .454. Turnwald was named to the MMAC first team unit.
Max Ortmann, Durand, P, INF
Ortmann batted .343 for the Railroaders, stinging 23 hits including two doubles while striking out just seven times. He was also a standout pitcher, posting a 5-1 record with a 2.83 earned run average, striking out 47 and walking six.
Nathaniel Lane, New Lothrop, OF, P, 1B
Lane, a senior, batted .354 with 40 hits, 36 RBIs and 28 runs. Lane laced nine doubles and was named to the MMAC first team unit as an outfielder.
Jake Graves, New Lothrop
Graves delivered an 8-1 pitching mark and a 3.07 earned run average. The junior struck out 38 and walked 18 in 41 innings pitched. Graves batted .271.
Nick Porter, Perry
Porter, a first-teamer in the Greater Lansing Activities Conference, compiled a 4-2 record with 45 strikeouts and a 1.93 earned run average. The junior batted .308.
Todd Nanasy, Morrice, 1B, P
Nanasy, a freshman, batted a team-high .397 for the Orioles. He delivered 25 hits with 21 steals. He also struck out 25 batters as a pitcher.
Julius Garza, New Lothrop, CF/P
Garza stung 38 hits including eight doubles and finished with a .369 batting average. The sophomore added 25 RBIs and scored 29 runs.
Andrew Atkinson, Laingsburg, 1B
Atkinson, a senior, batted .391 with 33 hits and 23 RBIs. He was voted a second-teamer all-star in the CMAC for the Wolfpack.
Chase Rodriguez, Laingsburg, 2B
The senior batted .404 for the Wolfpack. The infielder stroked 36 hits in 88 at-bats.
Steven Ursic, Byron, INF
Ursic batted .370 on the season with 21 stolen bases and five doubles. Ursic’s on-base percentage was .468.
Ethan Hollister, Corunna, SS, P
Hollister batted .336 for the Cavaliers. He stung 38 hits and stole nine bases for the Cavaliers. Hollister was named to the GAC Red first team.
Caleb Stahr, Corunna, INF
Stahr batted .339 with 39 hits for Corunna. He drove in 14 runs and stole 10 bases. Stahr was named a first-teamer in the GAC Red Division.
Ty Gross, Chesaning, C
Gross powered 32 hits with six doubles and 21 RBIs. Gross batted .333 with an on-base percentage of .429. He was named a second-team all-star in the MMAC.
Cayleb Carman, Ovid-Elsie, 1B
The Marauder delivered a .326 batting average with 31 hits. He added 24 RBIs.
Cole Higley, Chesaning, OF
Higley batted .314 with 32 hits including 10 doubles. The first-team All-MMAC outfielder drove in 19 runs and his on-base percentage was .395.
Corunna — Peyton Norton, Porter Zeeman, Justin Chapman, Blake Galesk; Ovid-Elsie — Chris Zruna, Tyler Knickerbocker, Hunter Bukantis; Chesaning — Trent Devereaux, Jarrett Kelley, Owosso — Luke Wheeler, Joey Wagner; Morrice — Caden Mortinsen, Jack Nanasy; Byron — Jay Harris, Kyle Hulett; Durand — Ben Nebo, Kyle Winslow, Dylan Freier; New Lothrop — Gavin Drager.