Fourth Foley Faceoff Falls to Fighting Irish; Friday Feat Forges Final

by Steve DeDoes for FGR Baseball (originally published at

June 18, 2010 – The typical barrage of hot hitting – keyed by Nolan Breymaier’s first-inning home run – was combined with the typical cool of senior pitching stalwart Mattie DeDoes to vault Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard past Madison Heights Bishop Foley on a hot afternoon in Battle Creek, Michigan.  This time, the rivals clashed in a state semifinal contest, where the winner would earn the right to play the next day for the state title vs. defending champion Shepherd.  The Fighting Irish ended up with another double-digit scoring output and a 14-5 victory margin, but this game was tighter than the final score indicated.  Six runs in both the sixth and seventh innings blew open a game that played out as another typical tussle between these Detroit Catholic League rivals.

Facing Foley ace Jeff Schalk, who twice this season came oh-so-close to defeating Gabriel Richard, Dennis Olszewski led off the top of the first with a base hit up the middle.  With one out, Breymaier unloaded his opening statement–a towering, arcing shot that cleared the rail in almost straightaway centerfield.  The two runs immediately staked the Irish to a lead; and successive batters Chris Ostrowski (single), Donnie Eaton (long fly to right), Matt Wagner (single), and DeDoes (hard smash up the middle for the third out) served notice that the Irish lineup would find Schalk’s offerings to their liking on this day.  In the bottom of the first, Foley’s Davie Leffler and Dan Zuchowski singled off DeDoes to create a two-on, one-out situation, but DeDoes got Schalk and Brett Sunde to fly out to end the threat.

Irish sticks continued to crackle in the second.  Justin Goike led off with a single, and Joey Birchler followed it with a great bunt that he beat out for a hit.  Olszewski’s ensuing single scored Goike, and Conor Dishman added an RBI hit to chase Schalk; Foley then turned their mound work over to Zuchowski, who was able to fan Breymaier on strikes.  However, Ostrowski then singled and Donnie Eaton brought home a fifth Irish run with a grounder to shortstop, Eaton beating out the double play relay.

DeDoes set down the Ventures in order in the second, recording his first strikeout in the process; Zuchowski answered by K’ing the Irish side in the top of the third.  In the bottom of the third frame, Foley not only got on the board, but notched four unearned runs to shrink the Irish lead to 5-4.

Ninth-place Venture hitter Luke Ortel started the inning with a single, and moved to second on a passed ball.  Leadoff hitter Leffler then reached base on an Irish throwing error, bringing up the main part of the Foley order (positions 2-4) with two on.  DeDoes rared back to strike out Brad Schalk, then nicked third hitter Zuchowski to bring up cleanup hitter Jeff Schalk with the bases loaded; DeDoes completed the “double-Schalk-K” trick with a beautiful cut fastball on the outside corner on the seventh pitch of Schalk’s at-bat.  It looked like DeDoes might escape scoring damage, but Sunde proceeded to single in two runs and Elliot Hall doubled home two more.  However, DeDoes was not about to surrender the lead, and he got William Malak to pop out to second baseman Wagner for the third out.

Gabriel Richard nudged the score to 6-4 by adding a single run in the fourth.  Chris Ostrowski’s two-out double to right-center–his third hit of the game–scored Olszewski, who had led off the inning with a base on balls.  And as he has done so many times this season, and over a two-year span that has seen him record 22 straight victories, DeDoes locked down the opposition from this point on.

DeDoes allowed a two-out walk in the fourth, and was touched by Jeff Schalk for a solo homer in the fifth (the only home run DeDoes ever surrendered in his GR pitching career), but went the distance in a masterful six-strikeout, two-walk performance.

In the top of the fifth, the Irish manufactured two runs when Wagner reached on an error, DeDoes followed with a sharp single to right, Goike neatly sacrificed Wagner and Tom Repovz (running for DeDoes); Joey Birchler’s fly to left brought home Wagner, and then Olszewski delivered a two-out RBI single, scoring Repovz.

With the score 8-5, the Irish broke things open in the sixth.  Breymaier singled, and subsequent walks to Ostrowski and Eaton caused Foley coach Buster Sunde to go deeper into his bullpen.  The Irish, however, wasted no time in battering third Venture hurler Brad Schalk.  Wagner singled to deliver two runs; DeDoes laid down a beautiful sacrifice, and Goike (2-run single) and Birchler (RBI double) took care of the rest of the rally before Schalk could escape with a pair of strikeouts.

Gabriel Richard added another tally in the seventh when a Breymaier walk and a nice Eaton bunt single led to a DeDoes RBI single.  All that was left was for DeDoes to mow down the deflated Foley lineup, which he did in the final innings.

After defeating Bishop Foley twice in the regular season with come-from-behind wins, and earning the CHSL championship in extra innings at Comerica Park in May, the fourth GR-BF matchup had Irish fans nervous going into the game.  The resounding triumph, however, put the Fighting Irish into the state championship game while a dejected collection of Ventures vowed to make things different next year.  With so many fine players returning on both sides, this rivalry will undoubtedly restart in 2011.

For the Irish, it’s ON TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP !!!