DeDoes Was, Fans Weren’t–but Gabriel Richard Wins Regional, Advances to State Playoffs

by Steve DeDoes for FGR Baseball (originally published at

June 12, 2010 – Another playoff matchup with Clinton loomed large throughout the week leading up to the regional tournament. In 2008, the Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard Fighting Irish came from behind to eliminate the Redskins in a pre-district game, 5-4. And in 2009, these same two schools met in a regional championship contest – where GR drubbed Clinton by a 13-0 margin. So, for a regional semifinal in Grass Lake, on the same field where the Irish prevailed in 2008, these two rivals locked horns in what would prove to be a thriller of a contest. Gabriel Richard hung on to win 8-7, then watched East Jackson come from behind to upend Hanover-Horton; and in the final, the Irish jigged to a 12-0 victory to claim a regional trophy for the second consecutive year.

The Fighting Irish played as the visitors in the semifinal, and immediately showed themselves to be rude guests when they scored four runs with two out in the top of the first. Dennis Olszewski led off by bouncing a single through the middle, but after being picked off first and a subsequent strikeout, Clinton ace hurler Rylie Robinson looked to have matters under control. However, after Nolan Breymaier walked, four consecutive Irish singles–a bloop by Chris Ostrowski, and line drives by Donnie Eaton, Matt Wagner, and Mattie DeDoes–staked the Irish to an impressive start. Eaton, Wagner, and DeDoes had RBIs (with Eaton scoring on an error). After DeDoes swiped second, Robinson reached back for a strikeout to end the opening rally.

Undaunted, Clinton looked to respond immediately. Ostrowski started on the mound for the Irish, and ran into immediate difficulties when an error, a walk, and a hit batsman loaded the bases for Clinton. Two more hit batters – and the two runs that came in as a result – caused Irish coach Greg Lenhoff to lift Ostrowski and turn to DeDoes to perform his escape act once again. Co-captain DeDoes was up to the challenge, as he blew pitches past the next three hitters to notch three consecutive strikeouts, leaving both the bases loaded and his GR squad ahead by a 4-2 score.

The Irish added a single run in the top of the second when Joey Birchler led off with a single, moved to second on Olszewski’s walk, tagged and advanced to third on Conor Dishman’s fly to right, and scored when Breymaier flied out to center. Olszewski stole second, but again Robinson escaped further damage. However, he would next take the mound with a lead in hand as his mates rallied in the second.

Chris Ostrowski, after his rough start on the mound, showed his mettle when he made a couple of nice defensive plays at third on ground balls to open the home half of the second. With two out, Clinton mounted their attack utilizing the heart of their lineup. A solid single by Hayden Craig was followed by singles by big Redskin hitters Stefan Spurlock and Stephen Cooley to make the score 5-3; it looked like the damage would be minimal, though, when DeDoes got Jesse Sexton to dribble a weak “swinging bunt” grounder. However, things turned disastrous when an errant throw ended down the line in right and Clinton runners circled merrily around the bases. When Marcus Stewart followed with an RBI single, Clinton had earned a 6-4 lead before DeDoes got Josh Lovejoy to ground out to Breymaier to end the uprising.

Both teams went scoreless in the third. GR could not capitalize on a leadoff Eaton double, and DeDoes also sailed through an easy bottom of the inning helped by a nice Ostrowski play on Robinson’s bunt single attempt and catcher Dishman’s nailing of leadoff hitter Mike Bohnett. His two-out walk led to a ill-fated steal attempt.

In the fourth, Gabriel Richard reclaimed the upper hand. Olszewski was standing on third with a one-out triple after Clinton’s rightfielder could not hold onto a long running catch; Dishman followed with an RBI double, and Ostrowski and Eaton seized opportunities to add critical two-out RBI singles. With the score 8-6, Clinton responded with a single run in their half of the fourth to tighten the score at 8-7. Spurlock’s long fly to right fell for a triple, and he sprinted home on cleanup hitter Cooley’s groundout to Irish second baseman Wagner.

Both pitchers – Clinton’s Robinson and GR’s DeDoes – locked down their opponents over the final stretch. Wagner’s fifth-inning single leading off the fifth was followed by DeDoes’ long lineout to left-center, and then Robinson notched his fifth strikeout and coaxed a groundout; he then proceeded to retire the top of the GR order in 1-2-3 fashion in the sixth. DeDoes answered with strikeouts in each subsequent frame as he only yielded a two-out walk in the sixth. Robinson, despite allowing eight earned runs, pitched well in keeping his team in the game. He recorded six strikeouts against two walks, but Richard hitters pounded the Clinton ace for twelve hits. The Irish had one more threat in the seventh, when Eaton notched his fourth hit of the game, and stole second with one out; after a failed bunt attempt for the second out, DeDoes walked. However, Robinson retired pinch-hitter Myles Lockridge to give the home team a final chance.

DeDoes, heading into the bottom of the seventh with a one-run lead, was firmly in control. His line for the day, to this point, read: seven strikeouts, two walks, and only one hit allowed after the second inning. However, Cooley led off for Clinton by dribbling a 1-2 pitch into center for a hit; Sexton followed by bunting to sacrifice the tying run into scoring position. A GR throwing error on the play, however, made things even more promising for the Redskins as they had runners on second and third, no out. Clinton fans delighted in the prospects of a come-from-behind upset over their three-year playoff nemesis.

Calmly, DeDoes retired the next hitter with a ground out that third baseman Ostrowski neatly took care of, holding Cooley at third before gunning to first. The next batter popped up a bunt attempt; Dishman made the putout catch in foul territory, and then fired to easily double Cooley off third base for a game-ending double play. However, his throw sailed into left field, and Irish fans gasped at the thought of two runs scoring on the play. Left fielder Joey Birchler, however, adroitly backed up the play and kept the tying and winning runners from moving. And, when the next hitter flied to Olszewski in right, the Fighting Irish had once again vanquished their cross-county rivals. For his part, DeDoes was the winning pitcher in all three of these matchups.

The championship game was anticlimactic – for both Gabriel Richard and their opponents, the Trojans from East Jackson. East Jackson rallied from an 11-3 deficit to defeat Hanover-Horton in a 12-11 semifinal thriller, while Irish players, coaches, and fans enjoyed a lengthy picnic. Gabriel Richard then sent Donnie Eaton to the mound to square off against EJ’s Bryan Goostrey. It looked like a pitcher’s duel might develop after the first inning; Eaton K’d three Trojans around a Goostrey single and Goostrey retailiated by striking out two Irish hitters (including the hot-hitting Eaton) after Olszewski’s leadoff single. Eaton then cruised through the top of the second, issuing only a two-out walk in the process of retiring the side.

In the bottom of the second, the home team Irish rocked Goostrey with four runs. Matt Wagner led off with a single to right, then scurried to third when DeDoes followed with his own right-field smash. Justin Goike walked, with Wagner scoring on the fourth ball when it eluded the Trojan catcher. Birchler neatly sacrificed; Olszewski brought in DeDoes with a ground out to short and Dishman scored Goike with a single. Tom White ran for Dishman, and his running created another Irish score when he stole second and third, then trotted home as the throw to third sailed down the line in left.

After Eaton enjoyed a scoreless third, the Irish broke the game open with eight more runs in the bottom of the inning. Eaton walked, prompting a pitching change. Wagner then reached on an error, and DeDoes began the parade against reliever Nate Murray by belting a run-scoring single to right. Goike walked, then Birchler delivered two more runs with a base hit and the rout was on. Olszewski’s RBI single was followed by two fly outs, Breymaier recording an RBI on the sacrifice fly; Ostrowski’s long double to right-center scored Birchler, and Eaton’s single plated Olszewski. Pinch-runner Tommy Repovz, subbing for pitcher Eaton, scored a final Irish run after he stole second, advanced on an infield single by Wagner, and then touched the plate on the back end of a double steal.

Eaton worked the fourth and finished the inning with his sixth strikeout. Justin Goike relieved Eaton, and got two strikeouts of his own in the fifth before the final out was recorded on a 6-3 groundout, Breymaier to first baseman Repovz. Aaron Cowhy caught the final inning for the Irish; freshman Myles Lockridge also patrolled left field for the the victors throughout the championship game.

After collecting their championship hardware (the trophies get larger from District, to Regional, to …), the 41-1 Irish turned their attention to the state playoffs. On Tuesday, they head to Bailey Park in Battle Creek to take on Schoolcraft, from the Kalamazoo area, in a quarterfinal game. Should the Irish prevail, a potential rematch with conference foe Madison Heights Bishop Foley could occur in a Friday semifinal, with a possible state title tilt on Saturday.