Late-inning heroics earn Rice baseball first regional title since 2009
June 12, 2013
NOVI — There was an entire game sandwiched in between, but the two most important pitches the Birmingham Brother Rice baseball team faced June 8 in a Novi High Division 1 regional final were the very first and the very last.
Nick Plummer took the first offering and sent it over the outfield fence. Alex Malzone took care of the last with a shot up the middle.
The rest was history.
“This was one of those games that anybody could have won at any time,” Rice coach Bob Riker said after his guys beat Northville High 3-2 on Malzone’s walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh. “But that’s baseball. That’s high school baseball. You just hope for the big hit, and we got it.”
Plummer’s solo home run got the game going, and the Warriors went up 2-0 in the second on a Sammy Stevens sacrifice fly.
Northville cut the deficit in half in the third inning, and then after an error by Malzone in the sixth, the Mustangs tied the game at 2-2 when the next batter singled.
“As a coach, you can only hope he’s the guy that has the chance to win,” a chocked up Riker said of Malzone, who delivered the game-winning single with the bases loaded and two outs. “When he came up, I knew he’d be the guy to get the job done.”
An error, an intentional walk and then an infield single by Matt Ruppenthal loaded the bases for Rice, and provided Malzone with a shot at redemption.
He wasted little time.
“I figured he’d give me a good pitch on the first one, and I just hung with it,” Malzone said.
His shot up the middle easily plated Bobby Cross from third base and then gave way to a mob scene on the infield as Malzone was swarmed and tackled by the entire team.
“It felt great,” Malzone gushed. “To have all the guys chasing me down to celebrate, it felt awesome.”
The win gave Rice (30-8-1) its first regional title since 2009 and set up a quarterfinal game against Lake Orion High, played June 11 after press time.
“I’m so happy for these kids,” Riker said. “The goal all along was to play for a state title, but you can’t do that without winning the regional first. … But they earned this. There have been so many countless hours that goes into what these guys work for. They had to fight, scrap and believe to get to this point.”
Rice earned a spot in the final after beating Walled Lake Northern 2-0 in the regional semis, thanks to Ruppenthal’s complete-game shutout.
The D-1 semifinals are set for June 14 at a time to be determined from Bailey Park in Battle Creek.
The final is at 9:30 a.m. June 15 at C.O. Brown Stadium.
Marian ends season
One week after capturing the program’s first district title in 10 years, the Bloomfield Hills Marian softball team had its season end in an 11-3 loss to South Lyon High in a D-1 regional semifinal at Novi