Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Groves & Seaholm Worthy Of Rivalry Tag

In the past two years, they’ve played three times and played 29 frames of gut-check baseball. Each school has scored 13 runs against the other. Since 2006 they’ve split three games.

Who splits three games? Birmingham Groves and Birmingham Seaholm do, going 1-1-1 versus each other since ‘06, when the Groves-Seaholm varsity baseball game went an amazing 15 innings and was suspended in twilight at a 7-7 standstill. The two Birmingham rivals have found they have more in common with each other than zip codes, toney restaurants and designer coffee houses. They’ve found bragging rights to be harder to secure than anyone would have believed without seeing it first-hand. In 2007 the two Oakland Activities Association (OAA) rivals split a pair of one-run games at Seaholm, with Groves taking a 5-4 nightcap after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Maples in the front end of a doubleheader.

Usually a good high school rivalry is more-commonly associated with football or basketball. Pontiac Central and Pontiac Northern's basketballers meet twice a year on an annual basis and the gym throbs with energy. Birmingham Brother Rice and Novi Catholic Central is must-see football. Novi and Northville High battle for the Baseline Jug while Clarkston and Lake Orion is must-see football and basketball. So why is Seaholm – Groves becoming a contest circled in red on the diamond?

For one, many of the kids that play youth baseball together end up scattered among the two schools. A healthy group of Maples and Falcons started playing travel baseball on teams named the Mariners, Red Sox or Motor City Pride. That familiarity breeds a healthy respect, but also a working knowledge of their rivals’ strengths and weaknesses, meaning every pitch and subsequent play is contested to the last available inch.

A second reason would be a refusal to roll over when the rival rallies, as was the case in the 2006 game. Jamey Sackett saw it first hand – he sat on the Groves bench for five innings, up on the varsity as a freshman with his brother, Jay Sackett, who started the game at catcher. A captain of the ’07 Groves team and current member of the Alma College baseball squad, Jay Sackett was summoned to the pitcher’s mound in the 6th inning of the game with two Maples on and nobody down and younger brother Jamey replaced him at catcher. When you’re a freshman and you enter the game with two innings to go, the last thought on your mind is the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) 30-out rule, but they found out soon enough. Brothers Jamey and Jay teamed as a battery for the next 10 innings, which equaled 30 outs. Jay Sackett could no longer pitch to another hitter, by rule, and the game was suspended after the final Groves hitter was retired in the bottom of the 15th inning against a setting sun.

"It went so fast, I can barely remember it today, "said Jamey Sackett, now a junior and Groves' starting catcher. "At the time, I was caught up with so much energy and emotion. It was an amazing game to have played and at the end, I was too excited to even know how tired I was." The Sackett brothers played travel baseball as youngsters in 2001 with Seaholm’s catcher in '06, Casey Starnes, who logged all 15 innings for the Maples that day. If the average high school at-bat is five pitches, and the Maples faced approximately 75 Groves hitters, Starnes caught close to 400 pitches in the game. On the adjacent diamond next to Falcon Field, the junior varsity Groves –Seaholm game started and finished, and a youth game to follow also started and finished before the 15-inning marathon was suspended.

The Sacketts have a unique look into the Birmingham rivalry. While their two sons wear the green & gold of Groves, as does father Mark, an assistant coach under Jim Crosby, both parents are Seaholm grads. To top it off, Don Sackett, father to Mark, led what many call the most famous championship in the history of the Michigan high school baseball tournament. The 1988 Seaholm team, christened the ‘Miracle Maples’, finished third in the now-defunct Southeastern Michigan Association (SMA) behind now-closed Royal Oak Kimball and runner-up Troy High. Both Troy and Kimball lost in their district openers but Seaholm, after winning the district, thundered to a dramatic championship by winning the regional final, quarterfinal and semifinal in their last at-bat. The Maples captured championship gold after defeating Steve Avery and Taylor Kennedy 11-9 in the MHSAA's title game.

In 2008 the Maples and Falcons are scheduled to lay it on the line at Groves on May 10th for a doubleheader. Will another 15-inning classic be played? Will a walk-off victory or no-hit performance grace the rivalry? One thing is for certain: Nothing will be surrendered easily when bragging rights are at stake between two of Birmingham’s diamond gems.

T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit’s High School Football Rivalries, due August 25, 2008 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice, you are right on the mark when you say these kids have been playing travel ball against each other for years. The Seaholm players mostly come the Sun Devils, Blue Jays, which are the same team.

Mike Haggerson

April 12, 2008 at 10:14 AM 
Blogger casemanx said...

If there is one game that I'll never forget, it was that game. I remember every pitch.

April 15, 2008 at 1:34 PM 
Blogger Crede said...

District and Regionals we came back from behind in the 7th to win in all five games. Finals in MSU were a joke.. Our toughest games were played at 13 an woodward.. We rolled.. Bottom line is Sackett got lucky! We basically coached ourselves...

July 21, 2008 at 6:27 AM 

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