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L-B hires Gerken to be boys basketball coach

06/05/2014, 12:00am EDT


Ben Gerken will continue a tradition of consistency and longevity when he takes over as the head coach of the Liberty-Benton boys basketball team.

Gerken, who was an assistant in the program for 15 seasons, takes over for Steve Williman. Gerken spent the last 13 years as a junior varsity coach under Williman, who retired in April after 28 seasons.

Williman posted a 516-133 record, which included 15 20-win seasons. He also led the Eagles to a state title in 1995, a state runner-up finish in 2007, and 16 Blanchard Valley Conference championships.

Gerken is part of a staff that has been together for more than a decade. Mike Marshall, who has been coaching for 26 years, will continue as a varsity assistant. David Rath, who has been the freshman coach for more than a decade, will move up to the junior varsity position.

“I feel blessed to take over a program that has had as much success as we have had,” Gerken said. “I may be the face of the program now, but it will be self-sustaining no matter who is in charge.”

Gerken, a Holgate graduate, was Liberty-Benton‘s head golf coach from 2003-08.

“The program will be structured the same,” Gerken said. “The pressure that I feel is just to continue to have the kids be as fundamentally sound and to work as hard as they do now and prepare the same way. In terms of wins or losses, we should be fine as long as we are doing it the right way.”

WHITEFORD SOFTBALL: The Whiteford softball team will play in the Michigan Division 4 regional semifinals Saturday.

The Bobcats (21-6) defeated Blissfield 16-0 in three innings in the D-4 district final.

Whiteford will play Camden-Frontier at 10 a.m. at Hudson. If the Bobcats win, they would play in the final at 2 p.m.

Whiteford, 11-3 in the Tri-County Conference, is led by pitcher Victoria VanBrandt. She has struck out 89 batters in 94 2/​3 innings. VanBrandt (12-3) has a 3.40 ERA.

Emily Ritzenthaler is hitting .540 with 35 runs batted in, while Kaleigh Funchion has a .471 average and has scored 25 runs. The other top hitters are: Janie Bunge (.394, 16 RBIs), Kate Long (.368, 23 RBIs) and Jessica Toda (.339, 16 RBIs).

CENTRAL SIGNINGS: Six Central Catholic athletes recently signed letters of intent — Nathaniel Harris (Wayne State, basketball), Alexander Mossing (U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, wrestling), Ryan O’Hearn (Hillsdale, baseball), Noah Pierce (Adrian, baseball), Ryan Roberts (Mount St. Joseph, football), and Kameron Weber (Mount Union, baseball).

CORRECTION: In the City League softball championship game story last Friday, the team first baseman Katie Jacobs played for was incorrectly reported. Jacobs played for Bowsher.

Contact Mark Monroe at:, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.

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Tag(s): High School  Liberty Benton  Whiteford  Mark Monroe