DETROIT — Orchard Lake St. Mary’s is two-thirds of the way to achieving its pre-season goals for the fourth consecutive time. The Eaglets won the regular-season Central Division pennant with relative ease.
Claiming the Catholic League Bishop (Central Division) Trophy championship — 3-2 against Novi Detroit Catholic Central — May 24 at the sun-splashed but chilly and breezy ballpark at The Corner in Detroit's Corktown was an adventure.
It turned out to be one of the weirdest games for the Eaglets, who, since mid-April 2019, have won 144 games, lost but five, and tied two, including an 85-game winning streak for a state high school record.
However, even wackier was how the Eaglets and Shamrocks made it to the finals.
The eight-team semifinals were staged Friday, May 19, at Comerica Park. The first two games deciding the Cardinal Trophy (AA and Intersectional divisions) finalists — Dearborn Divine Child and Marine City Cardinal Mooney — occurred without incident.
In the first of the Bishop Trophy semifinals, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice was ahead of Catholic Central, 8-6, when the game was halted after five innings. Comerica Park officials wouldn’t permit the game to continue on Tigers soil because of the looming threat of rain.
So, both teams took their bats and balls to Brother Rice’s field in Troy, where skies were less threatening. It took an hour and a half for the players and officials to reassemble. Catholic Central came from behind to win 11-10.
St. Mary’s and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett played the next day, Saturday, at noon on Catholic Central’s diamond in Novi. The Eaglets narrowly won 2-1.
In the Bishop final between these two Central Division foes, St. Mary’s didn’t get a hit off Catholic Central freshman hurler Bennett Thompson, but built a 3-0 lead in the third inning using the unlikely formula of two walks, a hit batter and a ground ball.
In fact, St. Mary’s only got two hits in the game against a trio of Shamrocks relievers used by coach Ryan Rogowski: Tyler Wolstone, Trey Langan and Braylon Laroo.
The Shamrocks immediately responded. Senior Brady Blakita, whose first-inning line drive was snared by a leaping Eaglets’ first baseman, preventing two runners from scoring, tripled off the fence in deep right field, and, two pitches later, scored on a passed ball.
Catholic Central closed the gap to 3-2 in the fifth and were poised for more with the bases loaded and Blakita at bat. Jasen Oliver, who came on in relief of starter Aidan Donovan in the fifth, fired two fastballs past Blakita looking.
The stakes were higher in another Oliver-Blakita duel in the seventh inning with potential tying and winning runs on base and two outs.
“(Brady’s) a fastball hitter,” Oliver said. “I wanted to throw off speed and keep him off balance. He took it (the first pitch) and we went from there.” Blakita looked at the strike-out pitch, too. Game over.
It was last-inning drama played out hundreds of times since 1912, when The Corner was opened as Navin Field, then as Briggs Stadium, then Tiger Stadium until it was demolished in 2009.
“We’ve got guys like Jasen in key spots who’ve have the experience and had the pressure in playing in state championships and Catholic League championships," coach Matt Petry said. "This will help in the state playoffs. We have a tough district coming up.”
St. Mary’s (29-4; Division 1, No. 3) will be seeking its fourth straight state championship. They open Michigan High School Athletic Association action with a district match May 30 against Waterford Mott (4-29). Other teams in the district are Waterford Kettering (19-14), district host West Bloomfield (23-9) and Lake Orion (20-12).
Catholic Central (23-14) also starts tournament play on May 30 versus Farmington (9-19).
Cardinal Mooney: ‘We’re on a mission’
Marine City Cardinal Mooney exploded for five runs in the third inning en route to a 6-1 triumph over Dearborn Divine Child to claim the Cardinal Trophy and its first Catholic League championship.
The game was played May 24 at The Corner, the site of former Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull avenues in Detroit's Corktown.
The first seven batters reached base to spark the uprising. Lead-off, back-to-back singles by Caden Feddersen and Trent Rice and a walk by Avery Brohl set the stage for pitcher Blake Lutzky to help his cause with a sharp, two-run line drive to right field.
Ryan Trombley singled Brohl home, Anthony Girling walked and Ty Boedeker singled to left field to score Trombley and Girling.
Speedster Rice manufactured the sixth run. He walked, stole second and third bases and scored on a groundout by Lutzky. Trent (an Oakland University commit) has 130 steals in his high school career.
Lutzky, a commit to Macomb Community College, raised his prep record to 24-4. He allowed one run, four hits, struck out nine and walked three.
The Falcons led off the game with their lone run. Tyler Kostora walked, reached second on a passed ball, and scored on Sean McCormick’s hit.
“I expected to see a dog pile after the game,” seventh-year coach Mike Rice said. “They shook hands. I think it shows we’re on a mission this year.” The Cardinals were 2021 Division 4 finalists. They lost 9-2 to Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic.
In the upcoming MHSAA playoffs, Cardinal Mooney (14-5, Division 4 No. 6) will play Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (14-9) June 3 in a district semifinal match.
Division 2 Divine Child (13-18) hosts a state playoff district opener against Dearborn Henry Ford (0-12) on May 30.
Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].