Thursday’s preps: Churchill finds mojo in season finale

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Barreling toward the playoffs — and the holiday weekend — with a 6-14 conference record and one game left in the regular season, Livonia Churchill had to make a change. Naturally, it did so in practice: it played “streetball” all week.

And it worked.

By stripping the mounting pressure of a late-season slide, Churchill (14-19) rolled out a dominating performance Thursday and rocked ten hits on its way to a 6-1 victory over Farmington.

Senior pitcher Mitch White was stellar on the mound, throwing six innings and striking out nine, Brendan Lowry scored three runs, and Drew Bush and Connor Burnett both went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

“The last couple of days, we’ve had a different philosophy with practice,” Churchill coach Art Cameron said. “Instead of working on specific techniques, we had a very controlled-type scrimmage. It was almost like streetball with a purpose.”

If nothing else, it apparently got the team loose. Churchill’s first two runners of the game crossed home and it jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the clean-up hitter could step into the batter’s box. Cameron said his team “never looked back” from there.

Complementing the starter’s performance, White’s infield caught runners stealing in the first and second; the senior pitcher was just one over the minimum through three.

To Cameron’s amusement, this was one of just a handful of starts for White this season: “He had a couple of coaches wondering if we should have had him starting games.”

“His fastball was good, he was moving it around, up, down, to the side — he just hit his spots,” Cameron said. “He kept changing the level so these guys couldn’t get dug in and get comfortable. It was something different every time.”

Now, with the postseason that ensues after the long weekend, Churchill will have the opportunity to press the reset button: on its pitching rotation, its mindset, and its win-loss record, and get back to the game it had played at the start of the season.

“For us, the biggest thing is that we’re going to come back, guys are going to be rested, and we’re feeling good about ourselves,” Cameron said. “Everything that we did at the start of the year was going perfect. It was like playing a video game. The coaches had the buttons, and whatever we pressed, worked.”

Before bouncing back against Farmington, Churchill dropped five straight. Included in that stretch was a three-game swing with Plymouth and Hartland the week prior to Thursday, in which it was outscored 33-1. It was a long way from that April baseball.

But Cameron never lost faith in his team. He’s got Lowry, a sophomore batting near .480, and the team’s “most gifted athlete.” He has Bush, “one of those guys who makes it fun to be there every day.”

Most importantly, he has “guys that what we’re doing is working, and we just need to stay the course.

“None of them want to go home. None of them want to take that uniform off.”

More baseball

Birmingham Groves 6, Waterford Mott 2: Laurence Bryson and Brian Roberts were 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Nick Ringler was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Roger Motley picked up the win for Groves (22-8). Jacob Moss threw three innings of scoreless relief for Mott (19-11-1).

North Farmington Harrison Unified 7, Troy Athens 3: Tobey Berger had three RBIs, Ryan Wrublewski had two RBIs and Dave Kirschner and Blake Maddalena went 2-for-3 for North Harrison (13-15).

Sterling Heights Stevenson 10, Auburn Hills Avondale 0 (5 inn.): Garrett Navarra had a home run, double and two RBIs, Mitchell Shamblin had two hits and a double, Ryan Lux had two RBIs and Navarra and Jacob Taravella combined for a one-hit shutout for Stevenson (13-19).

Other baseball score

Dearborn 11, Dearborn Annapolis 1 (5 inn.)


Center Line 4, Warren Woods Tower 0

Dearborn 10, Dearborn Heights Annapolis 0 (5 inn.)

West Bloomfield 10, Berkley 9 (8 inn.)

West Bloomfield 11, Berkley 1 (5 inn.)

Boys lacrosse

Detroit Country Day 18, Ann Arbor Greenhills 3

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 14, Warren DeLaSalle 12

Troy Athens 14, Macomb Dakota 3

Utica Eisenhower 13, Romeo 4

Girls lacrosse

Canton 9, Novi 7

Farmington 17, Wixom St. Catherine 1

Farmington Hills Mercy 21, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 4

Grosse Pointe South 20, Troy Athens 12

Lake Orion 14, Fenton 8

Girls soccer

Birmingham Seaholm 3, Flushing 1

Detroit Country Day 3, Farmington Hills Mercy 1