After you do something cool like winning a state baseball championship – which Gabriel Richard did last year – there is usually at least a little bit of retooling to do.
But not for the Pioneers.
Coach Mike Magier’s team won the 2018 Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 state title with largely underclassmen and those guys are back this year to try and make another run.
“Pretty much the whole team returns,” said Magier. “They were all juniors last year and they are basically the same guys this year.”
The list is headed by all-staters Kevin Tuttle and Matt Silka, now both seniors.
Tuttle plays shortstop and catches and Magier calls him, “our main guy.” In addition to his defense, Tuttle is the mainstay in the middle of the Pioneers’ batting order.
Silka is the team’s go-to pitcher.
“Matt hits his spots and his ball has a lot of movement,” said Magier.
Silka suffered a knee injury and missed a good portion of the basketball season last winter, but he is healed and ready to go this spring.
Already this season Silka has tossed a pair of no-hitters, including one against archrival Madison Height Bishop Foley, one of the key challengers as Richard defends its state title. The other no-no came against Macomb Lutheran North.
Magier said his team’s stiffest competition, both in the league and in the state tournament will come from Foley and Grosse Pointe University Liggett. Richard, which is 9-2 so far this spring, has divided doubleheaders with each of those teams. The Pioneers beat Foley 3-0 in the state championship game last year and either Foley, Liggett or Richard have won the D3 state championship in seven of the last eight years.
Giving the Pioneers some added confidence is the fact that they beat the top pitcher from both Foley and Liggett.
In addition to the two all staters, Magier has a field full good, experienced players to count on. Players like pitcher Cole Atkinson, who was the winning pitcher on Richard’s 5-2 state semifinal victory over Schoolcraft last spring.
Also back are ace centerfielder and leadoff man Jacob Goson, who was second-team all-state last year, David Zubor, Frank Klamerus and Cabrini transfer Nico Maloney.
If there was any question mark heading into this new season, it might have been second base, but Magier said junior Ivan Hernandez has stepped in and made the position is own, further solidifying the Gabriel Richard lineup.
Magier said he is happy with his team’s position, but admitted that the season has been “a little bit trying,” due to the rainy weather and Gabriel Richard’s late spring break. Those two factors conspired recently to keep the Pioneers off the field for two straight weeks.
When they have played, the Pioneers have swept doubleheaders from Lutheran North and Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and beaten neighboring Grosse Ile in a non-league game.
As they did last season, Magier said Tuttle and Gosen have been leading the way offensively.
The rest of the Pioneers are, Hayden Flynn, Dan Reitmeyer, Colby Daiek, Haydon Burke, Sean Clancy, Ethan Lozon, Braden Bilinski, Ashton Novak,Ethan Mehall, Erik Byrd, Jake Emery and Quinn Hess.
When the regular season comes to a close, the Pioneers will begin their playoffs in a district tournament hosted by Cabrini. Also there is the host school as well as Ecorse and Taylor Prep. A win there would set the pioneers one a potential path back to the state finals that would go through Manchester for regionals and Napoleon for super regionals.