WEST BLOOMFIELD – Of course, it had to end sometime.
That time came last Saturday for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s baseball “teams.” The plural is appropriate because the Eaglets dominated the state high school scene for nearly four seasons like no others ever had.
It took no less than a sensational game-ending, heartbreaking play to end an unimaginable journey that took on the appearance of a looping dream-stream from April 17, 2019, interrupted but not deterred by the “nightmare” of 2020 COVID, resumed relentlessly through 2021 and 2022 until a harsh wake-up call back to reality on June 3, 2023.
The Eaglets won 148 games and lost only 7: the last 27 games in 2019, 43-1 in 2021, a state record 44-0 in 2022 and 34-6 this spring. They had an 85-win streak from mid-May 2021 to May 3 this year, five short of the national record but a new state record.
St. Mary’s beat up nine fellow Catholic League schools 79-3 for four Central Division titles and four CHSL championships and were 57-4 against 46 out-state schools for three Michigan High School Athletic Association championships in a row. They were 12-0 against eight Buckeye State teams.
Last Saturday, St Mary’s blanked Waterford Kettering 5-0 in a state district semi-final playoff game at 10 in the morning and waited around to find out whom they would come up against for the district title, West Bloomfield or Lake Orion.
The Lakers and Dragons matched wits for 11 innings in 88-degree weather before Lake Orion claimed a 1-0 victory on a walk-off walk. It was nearly 4 o’clock when St. Mary’s and Lake Orion took the field.
St. Mary’s raced out to a quick 2-0 first-inning lead. Parker Brzustewicz smacked the third pitch he saw for a double to left. A walk to Blake Grimmer and a single by Ryan McKay loaded the bases. Hudson Brzustewicz lined a double to left center scoring his brother Parker and Grimmer. Carter Cline, running for McKay, was thrown out attempting to score.
Lake Orion wasted no time responding in their half of the second inning to take a 3-2 lead aided by a pair of costly Eaglet errors. Catcher Vince Cowdrey threw the ball over the first baseman’s head on a dropped third-strike play. Left fielder Will Boisineau botched a line-drive catch. Two doubles and a single followed for what turned out to be the winning runs.
The Eaglets had two golden opportunities to tie the score.
McKay led off the sixth with a double to the left field corner. Donovan, running for McKay, advanced to third base on a ground ball. With Lake Orion’s infield drawn in, Donovan was thrown out at the plate attempting to score on a grounder to short.
In the seventh, in their last turn at bat, Cowdrey led off with a walk. He advanced to second base on Boisineau’s sacrifice bunt and hustled to third, representing the tying run 90 feet away, on an infield out.
Jasen Oliver season-long was the team’s go-to guy admired for the self-assurance he exuded in game-changing opportunities whether at bat or at shortstop or on the mound.
On the second pitch, he slashed a line drive over shortstop position. Cowdrey took off for home with the tying run and Oliver was near first base at about the moment Lake Orion leftfielder Carson Womack dove to make a sensational, game-ending, heartbreaking catch.
“A loss like thing stings as it should,” Coach Matt Petry said. “(Jason’s) hit was right on the screws. The guy made a helluva play. It’s just one of those things. Lake Orion is a very good team. Today they beat us. We gave them a couple of runs.”
Petry, in his 13th year at the helm, shared some of what he had told the players in their last post-game huddle.. I told the upper classmen it’s not normal what they accomplished in their high school careers. Only one team in each division is allowed to win the last game of the year. We were fortunate enough to do that three years in a row.
“Be proud of what you accomplished,” Petry said. “The seniors wanted to be the class that won a fourth state championship. They fell short. That’s not an indictment of who they are as people and who they are as baseball players. Things didn’t go our way.”
Oliver, committed to Indiana, plans on enrolling by the middle of this month to get a head start academically and in baseball.
Other commitments have McKay to Michigan State, Grimmer to Tennessee, Cowdrey to Grand Valley State and Anthoni Kiafoulis to Pennsylvania.
Footnote: A pair of other Central Division powers joined St. Mary’s on the sidelines. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (28-8) lost 4-3 to Birmingham Seaholm and Novi Detroit Catholic Central lost 4-2 to Novi.
Contact Don Horkey at [email protected]