Birmingham Groves first-year coach Shawn Morrison described a nearly Jekyll and Hyde-like difference between both five-inning games of his team’s Senior Day doubleheader against Royal Oak on Saturday.
Groves lost the first game, 4-3, and won the second by the same score.
“I think the biggest difference for us was that in game one we had to chase the lead,” he said. “In game two, we started off a little hotter and we had to work on maintaining the lead.”
Down 4-0 going into the fifth inning of game one, Groves attempted to mount a comeback, loading the bases with nobody out.
Andrew Martin singled to lead off the inning, before Connor Bradbury was hit by a pitch and Nate Higley singled to load the bases.
The hits for Martin and Higley were their only hits of the game.
Two batters later, Michael Pastoria walked to score Martin. Chaise Ford followed with a two-out infield single, scoring Bradbury. John Kowalchuk hit an infield single to score Higley, but the rally stopped there, when Pastoria was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
“It was a close play at the plate,” Morrison said. “It was the difference maker.”
The loss was the fifth one-run loss for Groves this season.
The momentum stayed in Groves’ favor in game two, scoring all four of its runs in the first two innings.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Leo Dudas hit a three-run double to right center — his only hit of the game.
Kowalchuk (2-for-2) doubled in Doug Roche in the second inning, ending the scoring for Groves.
“He’s been a hot bat for us,” Morrison said, adding that Kowalchuk was 5-for-7 against North Farmington last week. “I think coming out of our last two league games, it kind of continues that trend.”
Royal Oak scored twice in the top of the third, and trailed 4-2 in the top of the fifth. It scored once in the fifth, and left runners at second and third to end the game.
Noah Zacharias earned the win for Groves (20-7). He threw four innings of relief, allowing three runs on six hits, while striking out one and walking three.
“He didn’t have the greatest day on the mound, but we as a team got the win,” Morrison said.
Morrison said plate discipline was an issue for Groves in game two.
“Our guys went out there in the third and fourth and we swung at a lot of early pitches,” he said. “After the game we talked about (how) good hitters can go up there and tell the difference between a ball and a strike. Great hitters know the difference between a pitch that they can drive and a pitch that’s a pitcher’s pitch.”
Morrison, who comes to Groves from a two-year coaching stint in South Carolina and a professional career that spanned four countries, described how Groves treats his first season, after 40 years under Jim Crosby.
“We kind of do some games within the game,” he said. “One of our goals is to win every inning. When you win every inning it allows you to extend leads if you have them and close the gap if you’re behind.”
A second goal for Groves is, at a glance, the opposite of the first.
“We have a goal to have a big-run inning, which we classify as three runs or more,” Morrison said. “They’re kind of conflicting goals. You can kind of get stuck playing for one run, and it can stop you from having that big run inning.”
Groves has a busy week in store. It starts on Monday with the first of a three-game set against Birmingham Seaholm.
“That’s the big rivalry series that everybody gets hyped up for,” Morrison said.
Grosse Pointe South 10, Harrison Township L’anse Creuse 6: Will Poplawski was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Brad Thompson 2-for-2 with two RBIs for South (15-11). Mark Schneider pitched 3⅓ innings in relief, allowing a run while striking out two to get the win. Jeremy Spezia was 2-for-4 with an RBI for L’anse Creuse.
Grosse Pointe South 2, Warren Cousino 1: Bob Weiland threw five innings, 4 hits, 7 k’s. Matt Torlone earned the save, striking out the side in the seventh for South. A.J. Stevenson was 2-for-3 and David Toth had the go-ahead single in the bottom of the sixth for South.
Grosse Pointe University Liggett 11, Detroit Western 1 (5 inn.): Alec Azar tossed a complete game two-hitter with five strikeouts for Liggett (21-1). Noah Miller was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs and Anthony George 3-for-3 with five RBIs. Western is 16-8.
Grosse Pointe University Liggett 5, New Baltimore Anchor Bay 4: Anthony George was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs and Will Morrison 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and two RBIs for Liggett. Matt Gushee was 2-for-3 and had a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh. Jimmy Seamans scored three runs for Anchor Bay (17-6).
Al Willman is a freelance writer