By Hank Minckiewicz
The Gabriel Richard baseball team – the defending Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 state champion – moved its MHSAA postseason winning streak to nine straight games by winning the D3 district at Cabrini June 3.
The Pioneers routed Taylor Prep 14-0 on June 1 and host Cabrini beat pounded Ecorse 11-1, but before the district championship game could begin, rain moved in and postponed the action.
Play was resumed June 3 and gone were all the runs as the Pioneers squeaked out a 2-1 decision over their archrival.
With ace pitcher Matt Silka still sidelined with a broken bone in his hand, Richard turned to Cole Atkinson and the junior delivered in a big way, working the full seven innings, allowing three hits and one walk, while fanning six. Cabrini’s lone run was unearned and came as a result of an error in the fourth inning.
After allowing the Cabrini run, Atkinson retired the final nine Cabrini hitters of the game.
“(Cole) was solid,” said pitching coach Terry Hayden. “He’s been solid for us all year.”
Richard opened the game looking like a team that was intent on producing another mercy-rule victory. The Pioneers loaded the bases with one out in the first inning and loaded them with no outs in the second. But a double play ball ended the first inning and the second-inning rally died after the Pioneers had pushed across just two runs.
In that second, Nico Maloney and Hayden Flynn had singles to get the rally started. Daniel Reitmeyer followed with a walk. After Ethan Lozon struck out, Jacob Gosen was safe on an error by the second baseman and the first run scored. Kevin Tuttle then worked a walk and forced home the second run.
Richard had four hits in the first two innings but just two after that.
The Pioneers had one more scoring chance in the top of the seventh when Gosen slapped a one-out double to left field and moved to third on an overthrow. But David Zubor grounded out and after an intentional walk to Tuttle, Atkinson grounded out to short and the insurance run died at third base.
But no matter, Atkinson took the hill in the bottom of the bottom of the seventh, struck out the first Cabrini hitter of the inning and ended the game with a groundout and a pop out.
It was a victory and the Pioneers advanced once again in the state tournament, but Hayden, who was subbing for head coach Mike Magier, who was out of town on business said no one was satisfied with the performance.
“We’re lucky we got that pitching and had that kind of defense behind us, because you’re not going to win much with offense like that,” he said. “You can’t afford to leave six runners on base in the first two innings.
“We’ve been waiting for our bats to wake up and we are still waiting.”
With the victory, Richard advanced to face Detroit Edison School in a regional semifinal June 5.
On May 24 the Pioneers went to Comerica Park to play in the Catholic League C-D championship game against Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett.
It was a battle of state-ranked Division 3 powerhouse programs and the Knights topped the Pioneers 2-0.
Atkinson again started for the Pioneers and he took the loss. Liggett, which had seven hits in the game, scored single runs in the third and seventh.
Richard had a tough time against Liggett pitcher Alec Azar, who set down the first 10 Pioneers he faced and allowed just two hits in the game.
Richard’s best scoring opportunity came in the fourth when Zubor reached base on an error by the Liggett third baseman. He moved to second on a passed ball and tried to score on a single by Atkinson, but was cut down at the plate.
In the fifth, Maloney and Reitmeyer walked, but the Pioneers failed to score and in the sixth, Zubor singled and Tuttle was safe on an error with two out, but the Pioneers failed to do damage.
Hayden Burke led off the Gabriel Richard seventh with a walk, but Azar buckled down and fanned the last three Pioneers hitters.
A year ago Cabrini beat the Gabriel Richard softball team in the district finals and went all the way to the Division 3 state quarterfinals.
On June 1, Richard returned the favor, beating Cabrini 4-3 in nine innings to win the district and now the Pioneers would like to make a postseason run of their own.
The Pioneers, who came into the game as big underdogs against the state-ranked Monarchs, played toe-to-toe with their archrival.
With the game knotted at 3-3, freshman Sarah Collins led off the top of the ninth inning with a solo home run that stood up as the winner.
Richard, which routed Ecorse 15-0 to reach the finals, never trailed the the district championship game. Abby Hand knocked in two runs and Jayden Kellogg one as Richard built a 3-0 lead through five innings. Cabrini tied things up in the sixth and seventh, necessitating Collins’ heroics.
Cabrini finished the season 25-5. Richard (7-18-1) moves on to the regional round to face Detroit Cristo Rey at 10 a.m. on June 8 at Wixom St. Catherine.