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May 21, 2013

Friendly confines of Comerica Park serve as celebration headquarters for Rice

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Friendly confines of Comerica Park serve as celebration headquarters for Rice
Rice pitcher Matt Ruppenthal held Catholic Central to just five hits in the 2013 A-B Division title game. Rice won 12-2.

DETROIT — They came.

They saw.

They conquered.

Again.

Guys on the Birmingham Brother Rice baseball team are yet to have permanent lockers at Comerica Park, but the program’s seemingly annual trip downtown for the Catholic League final is getting relatively routine.

And that’s just fine.

“It never gets old. How could it?” junior Matt Ruppenthal said after the May 16 A-B Division final against Novi Detroit Catholic Central. “It’s a great feeling. At the start of every year, this is the vision we have as a team. To check that off the list is pretty special.”

The check was an emphatic one this time around, as the Warriors flexed some offensive muscle in the box while Ruppenthal did his thing on the mound.

The result was a 12-2 mercy against the Shamrocks, giving Rice consecutive league titles — four since 2007.

“I never like to look at the years together, but it was nice for some of our new guys to get the chance to play here, and some of our older guys have the chance to defend the title,” Rice coach Bob Riker said. “You always hope to put yourself in a position to be down here. And to win makes it even more special.”

Just days removed from a 6-5 loss to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, one that prompted Riker to say his team played like “the most overrated team in the state,” Rice did a little bit of everything to beat Catholic Central for the third time in five meetings this spring.

“And today, we played like one of the most talented teams in the state,” Riker said.

Rice used a small-ball strategy  to get runners on in the first inning, setting up Ruppenthal’s RBI single.

The Warriors led 2-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning, and then took over.

After loading the bases, Sammy Stevens earned an RBI with a walk, Nick Plummer drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Bobby Cross picked up a pair of RBI with a single to left.

Leading 6-2 entering the bottom of the sixth, Rice scored six more times, capped by Alex Malzone’s base-clearing and game-ending double.

“We were real steady and real consistent at the plate,” Riker said. “We got good pitching from Matt, and we didn’t commit any major errors on defense.”

Ruppenthal pitched Rice to victory in last year’s final, shutting down the University of Detroit Jesuit in a 6-0 final.

He had been limited on the mound this season, but took his spot in the middle of the Comerica infield with plenty of confidence and familiarity.

“It’s a big advantage,” he said of having that experience. “Once you get going, you’re able to see it as just another game.”

In just his seventh start of the spring, Ruppenthal held the Shamrocks to five hits in six innings of work.

In doing so, he pushed Rice to 22-9 entering a May 22 home doubleheader with Madison Heights Bishop Foley.

The Ventures took the field right after Rice and ran their record to 25-1 after winning the C-D Division title 8-2 over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.

With one check down, the Warriors can now turn their attention to the next goal, a trip to Battle Creek and a shot at a state title. The Warriors haven’t been to the state semifinals since 2008.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.