ORCHARD LAKE — Now that their record-shattering state high school baseball 84-game win streak and their relentless pursuit of the national 89-win record are over and done with, the St. Mary’s Prep Eaglets turn their attention to new horizons.
“We still control our own destiny,” coach Matt Petry said after his squad won two of three games Saturday against their nearest Catholic League Central Division rival, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice.
“Our goal is to win the league title, the Catholic League championship and the state (Division 1) championship,” he said. The Eaglets have brought home trophies in each category the past three years.
“We knew the streak would come to an end at some point,” said Petry, who is in his 13th season at St. Mary’s. “They took it to us” referencing Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s doubleheader win last Wednesday that snapped the 84 streak. “Now we are able to refocus on our goals.”
The first game Saturday was the resumption of a 5-5 game halted in the sixth inning by darkness April 19.
The Eaglets (20-3; Central 15-3) won 6-5 in dramatic fashion in the eighth inning on a bases-loaded walk-off walk to Vince Cowdrey. St. Mary’s set up the situation on a combination of a one-out walk to Blake Grimmer, a double by Jasen Oliver and an intentional walk to Hudson Brzustewicz.
In the opener of the regularly scheduled doubleheader, Brother Rice (19-6; 12-4) exploded with a five-run outburst in the third inning to erase the 2-0 lead the Eaglets established in the first inning. With two outs, the Warriors scored on four consecutive RBI singles by Tristan Crane, Tyler Fox, Owen Turner and Alfredo Velazquez. Turner finished the romp scoring on a passed ball. Rice went on to win 6-3.
That was also the final score in the second game but with St. Mary’s on top.
Grimmer smacked a two-run homer (his third of the season) for a first-inning 2-0 lead. The Warriors regained the lead with three runs in the second. The Eaglets wrapped up the game’s scoring and victory with four runs in the third. Oliver’s single and Cowdrey’s double were the big blows.
“We played well in the second game,” Petry said. “This was a good show of character for our guys, especially after dropping the two games (to Liggett).”
Those were heart-wrenching losses, both by a 4-3 score and both claimed by Liggett on its last turn at the plate.
“It’s a long season,” said senior Ryan McKay, which is seeming longer for the starting second baseman sidelined since April 22, when he fouled a ball off his left foot, fracturing a small bone.
”There were a lot of mental mistakes we made. We had a lot of line outs. You can’t do anything about them, but mental errors is where we messed up. We came up flat. That’s unfortunate, and it hurt us,” he said. “You gotta get back at it. It’s baseball. None of us are thinking about the losses. We take some stuff from it. We learn from it. We have goals”
McKay said he’s hopeful he’ll be able to return to playing in time for the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs June 3.
About the 84-win streak, McKay said, “One day I’ll be telling tell my kids about this, but this is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Sophomore year was unbelievable. Last year was unbelievable. This year has been just as good. A lot of kids dream of this, but I’m very blessed to be where I am.”
He is committed to Michigan State.
Senior Jasen Oliver, shortstop and pitcher, shared similar sentiments.
“It was definitely something that a normal high school baseball player will never be able to experience. St Mary’s had something that I wanted to be a part of, and all of this worked out. I came here my freshman year. The 2021 (season) looked good, the 2022 was awesome, the 2023 is better.”
He continued: “A fresh new season starts now. (During the streak) the team’s brotherhood held each other accountable. All have a part. The nine guys on the field, the 20 in the dugout. We all have a part keeping each other up.”
“Petry has built a community of loyal players and fans and families,” Jasen’s father, Jake Oliver, said. “He has done a phenomenal job. Orchard Lake is known for baseball. Petry puts together the maximum games against the best competition. And the Catholic League is the toughest. When I was coming here with Jasen as a freshman, I told him, ‘They got kids coming here from across the state to play baseball.’
“We live in Almont, north of Romeo,” Oliver said. “My wife and I homeschool our kids, then on to private high schools. We shadowed Brother Rice, Country Day, De La Salle, and St. Mary’s, but we were blessed that kids live in the dorms at St. Mary’s.” (Jasen’s brother, Jaden, a sophomore, also attends St. Mary’s and plays baseball.)
Jasen is committed to Indiana. “He’ll be going there right after graduation, enroll in summer classes, get around to meet the players. He’s been told he’ll play shortstop and do some pitching,” Jake Oliver said.
Prior to the losses to Liggett, the last time St. Mary’s lost a baseball game to a CHSL team was April 17, 2019. Since then, the Eaglets have won 135 games, lost four and tied two.
They have at least a dozen games on their schedule before state playoffs begin June 3.
Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].