Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prep Baseball Districts Preview, Part II

Note: Today is the second part of a two-part preview of this year's baseball districts of note in Oakland County, including the history behind some of the matchups that remain possible today or have taken place in the past. Today a preview of Districts 29, 30, 31, 60 and 61.

With pre-district action commencing Tuesday, the rest of the field goes forward either today or tomorrow. District matchups sometimes create the most difficult games in the road to the state baseball championship, because neighboring schools bring natural rivalry and familiarity to a district game.

District 29: This is definitely a lakes area district with the three high schools of Walled Lake represented but Central, Western and Northern, plus a gritty squad of Lakeland Eagles and the always dangerous Shamrocks of Novi's Catholic Central. Last year the Shamrocks were grouped with Northville, Novi and Farmington, forming arguably the toughest district in Oakland County of '07. This year the most likely challenge would come from Lakeland. District 29 notes: While not located in Oakland County in 1999, CC defeated Troy 6-5 in the '99 championship game... the Warriors of Walled Lake Western captured 1984's crown.... Northville has been ranked in the Top 10 coaches poll all season.

District 30: Last year's Division I Cinderella came in the form of West Bloomfield's Lakers, who escaped Brother Rice in a suspended district final in eight innings and advanced to the quarterfinal. No such luck this year as the Lakers, the host for this bracket, were dispensed in the pre-district game by Birmingham Groves, 7-1. Those Falcons will face Brother Rice, the Catholic League runner-up from Wednesday's loss to Dearborn Divine Child at Comerica Park, in the morning game Saturday. The winner gets Southfield Lathrup or Birmingham Seaholm in the final. District 30 notes: Birmingham Seaholm won the Class A championship 20 years ago and were dubbed 'The Miracle Maples'... The son and grandson of the '88 Seaholm coach, Don Sackett, now wear the Groves uniform. Jamey Sackett is the Groves receiver and Mark Sackett, his father, is an assistant coach under Jim Crosby. Ironically, it's the same role Mark Sackett had for Seaholm in '88, leaving the possibility of another Birmingham miracle in the offing... Rice captured the '92 and '94 final and was runner-up in '03 and '86, joining Royal Oak Kimball as the only Oakland County school to play in four Class A / Division I finals... West Bloomfield won the Class A title in '83... Groves and Seaholm split three games (1-1-1) in '06 and '07, including a 15-inning game that ended in a 7-7 tie due to darkness. Groves swept the Maples this year.

District 31: Last year's Division I runner-up, Pete Finn's Farmington High Falcons, are bracketed with one of this year's favorites in Northville's Mustangs, who have re-loaded for a third straight campaign. Farmington Hills Harrison, who defeated Top 10-ranked Royal Oak this week, joins North Farmington and Novi. The Wildcats are back to their fundamental roots after a down year in '07 and Harrison is a defending district champion. It would be tough to expect any of these teams to top Northville, but an upset isn't out of the question, as witnessed in '07, when Farmington edged Northville in the district final. Finn's Falcons used a bit of strategy by stealing 3rd after a prolonged injury break for Northville's catcher, who had been stung by a foul ball on the previous pitch. A throwing error resulting in the winning run for Farmington in the district final with Northville. District 31 notes: Novi and Northville play for the Baseline Jug in football and their rivalry in all sports is a spirited affair, making a Novi-Northville a marquee upset special... Farmington was within one pitch of winning last season's state title tilt with Lake Orion...

District 60: An upstart group of Rams representing Madison Heights Lamphere joins Ferndale, Hazel Park and Detroit Country Day, leaving this district to a pair of south Oakland County rivals (Ferndale & Hazel Park), a new player in the championship fray (Lamphere) or coach Frank Orlando and Country Day, himself no stranger to championship competition. With Ferndale and Hazel Park having average seasons, it's a better bet to place Lamphere and DCC as potential winners of this district. District No. 60 notes: Hazel Park played for the Class A title in '74 and '76... Ferndale was coached for many years by Hall-Of Fame coach Annis Joseph... Country Day took the Class B title game in '95 after being runner-up in '93... Frank Orlando, a Hall of Fame member from '91, had the honor of having the Country Day field named for him, but it was demolished to make room for a campus addition after last season... Hazel Park was the prep home to former World Series and Cy Young winner Bob Welch, who played as an Eastern Michigan Huron. Welch and Bob Owchinko led the Hurons to the championship game of the College World Series in the mid 1970s before pro baseball.

District 61: Bloomfield Hills Andover eliminated Notre Dame Prep on Tuesday, 7-2, leaving the Barons to contend with Cranbrook-Kingswood, Bloomfield Hills Lahser and last year's Division II runner up, the Eaglets of Orchard Lake St. Mary's. While it might be a surprise to some that a Catholic League school with a better record (Prep) were bested by an lower-division OAA school (Andover), it illustrates the quality of baseball in Oakland County. The Eaglets would be the battle-tested choice in this district but are relying on youth to mature quickly if they are to repeat a run to the title game. District 61 notes: The most picturesque setting for high school baseball in Oakland County is the home of the Cranes of Cranbrook-Kingswood, a field possibly traversed by Abner Doubleday himself (grin)... Pontiac Catholic won the '86 Class C title, and although not the same school, Prep is widely regarded as the 'replacement' to Pontiac Catholic. Oakland University men's basketball coach Greg Kampe's son, Keith, now playing baseball for the Golden Grizzlies, is a Prep grad and baseball letter winner... OLSM won the '03 and '98 Division II /Class B titles as well as being runner-up last season in Division II and '84, then playing within Class C.

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


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