Cereal City Reverberates With Sound of GR Bats

by Steve DeDoes for FGR Baseball (originally published at fgrbaseball.com)

June 15, 2010 – Battle Creek’s C.O. Brown Stadium – which has seen decades of state high school playoffs, national amateur finals, professional and minor-league teams – never saw a better exhibition of hitting than the one put on by the Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard Fighting Irish in a state quarterfinal game. The Schoolcraft Eagles must have felt like the Washington Generals (the old foils of the Harlem Globetrotters) as the Irish put a resounding 16-1 thumping on their cross-state opponent. The Tuesday evening game lasted only three innings, as a 13-run first shot down the Eagles’ hopes and rocketed the Irish into the state semifinals.

Chris Ostrowski started on the mound for Gabriel Richard, and he was touched for a run in the first without yielding a hit. Ostrowski nicked leadoff hitter Benny Clark, who stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored on Chris Schwartz’ grounder to first.

The lead, and Schoolcraft hopes, were short-lived once the Irish came to bat. Dennis Olszewski walked, and then the barrage began against Eagle southpaw Seth Rice. Conor Dishman (single), Nolan Breymaier (RBI single), Chris Ostrowski (RBI double), Donnie Eaton (2-run single), and Matt Wagner (single) all followed with solid hits. Mattie DeDoes then laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, and almost beat it out; Justin Goike then lined to third. With two out, it looked like Rice might escape with the four runs posted to that point; however, when he walked Joey Birchler to load the bases, Eagle coach Courtney Jasiak opted to give the ball to Schwartz, the righthanded half of the Schoolcraft pitching aces.

Olszewski immediately cleared the bases by belting a long, 3-run double, and the Irish jig was just beginning. Dishman (RBI single), Breymaier (RBI double), Ostrowski (walk), and Eaton (hit by a pitch) all kept things rolling; then “The Mattie’s” struck hard from the left side of the plate. Wagner smashed a 2-run single, and then DeDoes jacked a ball that short-hopped the centerfield fence (405 ft.) for two more runs. Jasiak had seen enough of Schwartz, and mercifully lifted him for junior righty Collin Proksch.

Proksch walked Goike, but got Birchler to ground out hard to first to end a 13-run onslaught that saw the Irish lineup bat around twice. Proksch’s pitching rhythm stopped the Irish from dancing in the second, as he retired the top of the order 1-2-3; however, in the bottom of the third the green-and-white party restarted. Ostrowski reached base on a misplayed fly ball, and then the Irish put an emphatic end to the festivities. Eaton’s shot to left dented the fence on one hop with a resounding thud, and then Wagner cranked the longest shot ever seen off his bat. His majestic drive to right barely missed clearing a 340-ft. wall, but served to score Ostrowski and Eaton. Co-captain DeDoes closed the books with a drive to left-center between the outfielders, and Wagner trotted home to give the Irish the 15-run margin that mercifully ended the fray.

Schoolcraft was left stunned by the might of the Irish attack. GR bats rang out in unbelievable fashion. A telling statistic was that every one of the sixteen Gabriel Richard runs was *batted in* (i.e., no overthrows, defensive misplays, etc.). Wagner ended the day with four RBI’s, Olszewski and DeDoes had three each, and Breymaier and Eaton two. On the mound, Ostrowski yielded a walk in the second and then gave way to Justin Goike who worked a 1-2-3 third over the grounded Eagles, who were held hitless over their three meek innings.

Irish fans celebrated the rout knowing that their red-hot squad would proceed to meet Madison Heights Bishop Foley on Friday in a state semifinal. The fourth meeting between these two rivals this year will undoubtedly be the toughest, as the stakes continue upward. GR has won each of the previous three meetings, the last of which came at Comerica Park in Detroit on May 26. Gabriel Richard earned the Catholic League crown in that game with a 1-0, nine-inning win.

Seeing these two top-ranked teams (GR #1, BF #3 in MHSAA final rankings) play in “full-count” format (i.e., not under Catholic League rules) will undoubtedly prove to be interesting. The winner of Friday’s contest will advance to the state final on Saturday afternoon.