Birmingham, West BloomfieldMay 29, 2014
West Bloomfield pulls huge upset, sends Brother Rice home with 9-7 victory in D-1 opener
By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer
BEVERLY HILLS — There are playoff wins, and then there’s what happened Thursday afternoon at Beverly Hills Groves.
In the weeks leading up the Division 1 tournament, West Bloomfield High baseball coach Eric Pierce spoke of the challenge his team had waiting for it in a predistrict bout with state power Birmingham Brother Rice.
He approached the game with a professionalism, welcoming the task while dipping into the playoff mantra of beating the best to be the best.
His guys did just that.
“It’s just one win, but this was getting over a big hump for us,” Pierce said with a smile after his Lakers upset Rice 9-7. “They’ve always found a way to get us (in years past), so for us to come out here and do this, it’s a pretty big win.”
Rice, the state runner-up in 2013, was considered by many the favorite to win the D-1 title this time around.
And when the game began Tuesday, the Warriors did nothing to put doubts to that assumption, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning.
But West Bloomfield’s bats came to life in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases against Matt Ruppenthal before Chadler Sedat crushed a grand slam for a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Lakers' offense went back to work, forcing Rice coach Bob Riker to make a pitching change prior to a weather delay that postponed the contest until Thursday.
When things resumed, West Bloomfield came back to bat with two outs and a runner on.
“We were ready to go,” Riker said of his guys. “We’re down one with three innings to play. We figured if we got out of that inning, and found a way to get it tied, it’s our game.”
Rice didn’t get out of the inning, at least not unscathed.
Deshawn Cole, who began the restart at first, stole second base.
Dazon Cole and Daiki Nishoika then drew consecutive walks off pitcher Karl Kauffmann.
Josh Birnberg ripped a two-RBI single to make it 6-3, followed by an RBI single from Sedat, and an RBI single from Robbie Jones.
“Our two-out hitting was the difference,” Pierce said with a smile.
Trailing 8-3, Rice crossed the plate twice in the top of the fifth, but gave up another key run an inning later.
West Bloomfield led 9-5 going into the seventh.
That’s when Rice made things interesting.
Randy Righter reached and scored on a ground out by Alex Malzone.
Davis Feldman then singled, stole second and scored on a hit by Bobby Cross.
But Sedat, who pitched the final three innings, then got a harmless fly out to end the game and kick start a huge celebration for the Lakers.
“That’s why you play the game,” Riker said. “They were better than us today. … It came down to pitching and defense. … They hit Matt and Karl pretty good, and there aren’t too many teams out there that can do that.”
Rice ends its season with a 34-3-1 record.
“It’s disappointing for the kids, but unless you win your last game, it’s always disappointing, it’s always a harsh ending,” Riker added. “It’s tough, but we won a lot of games this year, and one loss doesn’t take anything away from that.”
As for West Bloomfield, the challenge is now coming back down to Earth in preparation for Saturday’s 10 a.m. district semifinal against Lathrup Village Southfield-Lathrup.
“We enjoy this now, and then it’s back to work with a good practice Friday,” Pierce said. The Lakers are 21-10. “There’s a lot of good baseball still to be played.”