East Lansing — Matthew Silka silenced Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s bats Saturday evening at McLane Stadium to make sure Riverview Gabriel Richard earned its first state title with a 3-0 victory in the Division 3 championship game between the Catholic League rivals.
Silka, a junior right-hander, was attempting to become the first pitcher in state title game history to throw a no-hitter. He gave up a leadoff single in the seventh to Liam Pollock past a diving first baseman, but then got John Stickney to ground into a 4-6-3 double play before striking out Ethan Hoffman to end the game.
Silka, who entered the game with a 0.91 ERA, improved his record to 7-0. He walked three and hit a batter while striking out seven, catching leadoff hitter Evan Ludwick looking on called third strikes on two occasions.
So, did Silka know he had a no-hitter going heading into the final inning?
“Yes, I mean when I saw the ball go through I was a little disappointed, but at the same time I knew that we were going to win a state title so it didn’t really matter to me,” Silka said, then praised his defense which turned two double plays behind him. “I’ve always been relying on my defense because I know that I can’t strike every hitter out and they did a really good job today of helping me out.”
When asked what was working for him, Silka said: “I was mostly relying on my fastball. I knew that if I could keep it to the corners and not make too many mistakes leaving the ball over the heart of the plate I knew I would have success today.
“It was huge to get that lead. I think momentum is one of the biggest parts of the game and that was really huge for us to get out in front because I knew that once we had a lead and we got rolling that it was going to be easier to pitch.”
Bishop Foley first-year coach Tim McEvoy had high praise for Silka.
“He kept us off balance and we weren’t able to get out in front of his fastball and that was the main issue, that we weren’t able to get out in front of the fastball,” said McEvoy of Silka. “Honestly, I want to congratulate them, they have a great coaching staff and a great pitcher.”
Gabriel Richard (29-3) — which didn’t have a senior on the roster — prevented Bishop Foley (19-18-1) from repeating as state champs, scoring single runs in the second, third and fourth innings.
Gabriel Richard scored in the second without the benefit of a hit. Haydon Burke struck out to start the inning, but reached safely after the ball got away from Texas Tech-bound catcher Mason Minzey. Frank Klamerus walked and Burke reached third on a passed ball and scored on a fielder’s choice when Hayden Flynn hit a grounder to the right side of the infield.
Flynn had an RBI single in the third, scoring Niko Maloney who had a one-out single and took second on a single by Burke.
Gabriel Richard increased the lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Dan Reitmeyer walked, took second on Ethan Lozon’s sacrifice bunt and scored on David Zubor’s single to center.
“Striking out twice I knew that something was going on with my swing so I just had to come back and analyze what I was doing wrong,” said Zubor, who carried a .400 average into the game, but struck out in the first with a runner on second and then again with the bases loaded to end a threat in the second. "The first two pitches came by for strikes so I was behind in the count, but I realized that I needed to get my front foot down and explode on the ball so I was able to drive that third pitch, curveball right in center field. It felt awesome."
Silka hit Minzey in the fourth, but he was wiped off the bases on a groundout double play.
Gabriel Richard coach Mike Magier talked about Silka.
“Nobody said anything," said Magier of Silka, who was working on his no-hitter. "They have enough baseball sense not to. Everybody was just looking at the scoreboard. He's been a workhorse for us. He's been tough all year. It's a great feeling to be state champs."