Northville baseball celebrates milestone victory

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit -- The Northville baseball players, like so many teams, discussed their aspirations before the season.

"One of the things we wanted to do," said senior Kevin Morrissey, "is make history, and we've done that.
"The first team in forever. Well, basically forever."

With that, he chuckled. But it's true.

For Morrissey, yeah, it's been forever since Northville won in the state quarterfinals. On Tuesday at Wayne State, that all changed, as it rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to beat Rochester, 9-5, and advance to the Division 1 semifinals at Michigan State against Grand Haven. That's at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Northville's magical season continues, with its deepest run in the postseason since the 1972 team.

Coach John Kostrzewa was born that same year.

"And I'm a teacher," he said. "I have to see that banner every day."

Kostrzewa has the No. 7 tattooed on his wrist, because it's his mom's lucky number. It also happens to be the same number of wins, assuming you play a pre-district game, that it takes in the playoffs to win a state championship. Northville (29-10) is two wins away.

Early Tuesday, it didn't look great, as Rochester (30-12), in the quarterfinals for a second consecutive season, scored three quick runs off Northville junior pitcher Ben Schmidt, who was on short rest.

Schmidt also is a lanky pitcher, and Wayne State's Harwell Field features a tall mound. Kostrzewa knew something wasn't right, so he made the quick change, to fellow junior pitcher Jonathan Michalak.

"Part of being a coach and spending time with these kids, you know when something's wrong, when something ain't right," Kostrzewa said. "That's what these guys have done. They've picked each other up."

As Michalak stopped the bleeding — getting a key pickoff shortly after entering the game, a legit momentum killer, according to Rochester senior Tom Loftus, and cruising from there — Northville's bats perked up, scoring five runs in the second inning to take the lead right back.

Morrissey's two-run double with two out was the big blow, making it 4-3. And Northville never looked back.

It scored nine straight runs, including a four-run fourth inning, to seal it.

Rochester didn't score again until the seventh, when Michalak was pitching to contact. He ended up going six innings in relief, allowing five hits.

"You know, he had a good fastball and he had good off-speed," Rochester coach Eric Magiera said of Michalak and what differences he saw in the offense following the pitching coach.

"We were hitting the ball into the ground, popping the ball up, that's what a good pitcher does. A good pitcher misses the barrel of the bat."

Morrissey finished 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs, and junior Billy Flohr was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Junior Alex Garbacik added two hits and two RBIs.

And when it was all over, on a flyball to right, there were the Northville players dogpiling in the center of the diamond.

With a comfy lead, they had started to talk quietly in the dugout about how they would celebrate. They saw Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett dogpile in the previous game, and they didn't want to be outdone.

"We had to do it, too," Morrissey said with a grin.


Division 1

* Northville 9, Rochester 5

* Grand Haven 2, Saginaw Heritage 0

* Grosse Pointe Woods Liggett 6, Sterling Heights Stevenson 0

* Saline 3, Holt 2

Division 2

* Stevensville Lakeshore 3, Allendale 0

* Chelsea 5, Corunna 4

* Dearborn Divine Child 6, Macomb Lutheran North 2

* Bay City John Glenn 11, Sault St. Marie 1 (5 inn.)

Division 3

* Madison Heights Bishop Foley 8, Riverview Gabriel Richard 0

* Caro 2, Hemlock 0

* Traverse City St. Francis 3, Grand Rapids West Catholic 0

* Schoolcraft 6, Homer 1

Division 4

* Unionville-Sebewaing 4, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic 3

* Portland St. Patrick 6, Muskegon Catholic Central 0

* Hudson 3, St. Joseph Lake Michigan 2

* Gaylord St. Mary 8, Rudyard 3