Prep baseball preview: David Goricki's top players
Brownstown — Colin Czajkowski never gets cheated out of his cuts at the plate, a reason he gets more than his share of extra-base hits, including home runs.
Czajkowski has developed into a five-tool player at Woodhaven High and his best position is that of a left-handed pitcher.
That’s right, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Czajkowski is an outstanding center fielder who will more than likely find himself on the mound next year at Michigan.
He's The News' top-ranked player in the Metro Detroit area.
Czajkowski became the first player to hit home runs in the state semifinal and championship games at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium last season when he hit a two-run homer in the third inning of the semifinal game against Birmingham Brother Rice to break a 1-1 tie in a 7-3 victory, then hit a solo shot in the opening inning of the title game, ultimately Woodhaven’s lone run in a 8-1 Division 1 championship-game loss to Grosse Pointe South.
“I love hitting, heated up in the playoffs,” said Czajkowski, who hit .402 his junior year and was 5-for-6 in the state finals. “I swing aggressively. I’m trying to hit the ball as hard as I can, try to get ahead in the count and then look for the fastball or hanging curve. The home runs in the State Finals were definitely cool moments, things to look back on, but I’m all about team first and we want to get back there and then win it this time."
Czajkowski said he felt he grew into his body last year, a reason for his success. He was 6-0, 150 pounds his sophomore year, then 6-2 and 170 his junior year and is now 6-4 and 195.
“Last year I grew into my body for hitting and pitching,” said Czajkowski, who noted he has played summer ball for Matt Petry — Orchard Lake St. Mary’s head coach — with the Motor City Hit Dogs. “Matthew Petry has helped me with pitching, took me under his wing and helped me with my mechanics. My sophomore year I topped out at 86, then hit 90 once last year and I’ve hit 92 this season, definitely gained velocity.”
So, would Czajkowski rather pitch or play outfield and hit?
“It’s hard to pick one, but the pro scouts are looking at me as a pitcher,” Czajkowski said. “I definitely see the scouts at my games, but my advisor, Mark Meisner deals with them to take the pressure off of me.
“I signed with Michigan and feel (pitching coach Chris) Fetter will help develop me to become a pro pitcher. I’ve loved Michigan since I was a little kid. They have great facilities, the best in the country, just like their academics, and their coaching staff is great too. I feel right at home there.”
Czajkowski owns a 3.6 grade-point-average. His father, Matthew is principal at Woodhaven and his mother is a teacher in the Gibraltar school system.
Czajkowski was a part of a pitching staff that recorded 60 scoreless innings during a streak which included eight consecutive shutouts last season. He was 6-1 with a 1.20 ERA, throwing in the low 90s. He opened the season with an impressive 5-0 shutout of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s — a Division 2 state semifinalist last season — allowing two hits while striking out nine in four innings of work. He also pitched a 5-0 shutout against Trenton with numerous MLB scouts on hand, striking out 12 in six innings while allowing one hit and two walks.
“He puts a lot of work into it, had a good off season,” Woodhaven fifth-year coach Corey Farner said. “He’s a smart kid, has a very high baseball IQ. Pitching-wise, he developed a couple of pitches that he didn’t have last year. He worked on a slider. He’s just one of those kids who just constantly tries to get better, asks a lot of questions. He’s a good leader, aggressive, just everything you want in a player.
“He’s had 10 or 11 major league teams that have seen him pitch or that have been in contact with him, including the Tigers, the Indians, the Reds and Cubs. I could see him going in the top five rounds if he gets up to 93, but he’s got a good deal at Michigan so he has options open.”
Said Petry: “He’s the ultimate competitor, I guess that’s biggest compliment I could give him. When he gets on the mound he has the bulldog mentality where it’s like, ‘This guy on the other team’s not going to beat me.’ He has a little bit of a swagger to him, just very confident. He’s played for me in the summer the past three years and he’s just an outstanding kid and an outstanding player.
“I remember when I took him he was 14 years old and he was 6-foot and 150 pounds, just a lengthy kid, but you take a look at his Dad being a tall guy and he had some long limbs and it was like this kid is going to be really good one day once he grows into his man body. He’s put on a lot of muscle and his velocity has jumped. He’s always had that competitive edge to him and when the physicality caught up to his mental game he turned into something really special.”
2. Aaron Dolney, Sr., C, Detroit Country Day
Dolney is a big, physical catcher at 6-4 and 215 pounds and athletic behind the dish with a strong arm. He also pitches, throwing in the low 90s with a very good curve and slider.
“He hits extremely well, but he’s also a dominant pitcher,” coach Steve Lepkowski said. “He’s a big, imposing kid, but has great feet and is extremely athletic behind the plate.”
Dolney will play next year at Nebraska.
3. Dillon Kark, Sr., SS/P, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s
Kark has great range and a strong arm at shortstop and is set to be OLSM’s closer once he fully recovers from labrum surgery he had last summer. He hit .390 last season with six home runs and was 4-1 on the mound before his injury, striking out 18 in a win over Dearborn Divine Child.
“He’s an outstanding player, a power hitter, an excellent defensive player who throws in the upper 80s when healthy and should be our closer,” coach Matt Petry said of Kark, who will play at Michigan State.
4. Logan Wood, Jr., LHP, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s
Wood was the ace of OLSM’s staff, earning a 9-2 record with a 2.10 ERA to help OLSM reach the Division 2 state semifinals.
“He’s a Michigan commit, throws in the upper 80s, has good control,” coach Matt Petry said. “He struck out 118 in 77.1 innings.”
5. Logan Evans, Sr., P-3B, Saline
Evans, who scored 27 and made six 3-pointers in a 63-52 upset win over Ann Arbor Pioneer in the basketball semifinals, is one of the premier pitchers in the state. He was 6-0 with a 1.10 ERA last season.
“He has a great fastball, throws 91, has great off-speed pitches and commands each side of the plate,” coach Al Zeiher said. “He wants the baseball and loves big moments.”
Evans will pitch at Penn State.
6. Alec Azar, Sr., P, Grosse Pointe Liggett
Azar made a name for himself his sophomore year when he beat Grosse Pointe North, U-D Jesuit and Sterling Heights Stevenson during Liggett’s postseason run to reach the finals. He followed that up with a 12-2 record last season with a 1.40 ERA.
“He’s probably one of the top pitchers in the state,” coach Dan Cimini said. “He throws 86 or 87 with a great slider and a very good curveball and good changeup so he has four really good pitches. He has very, very good control where he doesn’t walk anybody and has good poise on the mound.”
7. Luke Russo, Sr., P, Howell
Russo had a strong junior season, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.00 ERA.
“He’s a hard-thrower, hits 88-to-90 with a major league breaking ball,” coach Jason Ladd said of Russo, who will pitch next year at Eastern Michigan. “He’s thrown two no-hitters already this season.”
8. Parker Pilat, Jr., SS, Detroit Country Day
The 6-4, 200-pound shortstop displays outstanding range and a strong arm. He is a Wake Forest commit and a three-year starter, hitting .340 from the No. 2 spot last season.
9. Billy Kopicky, Sr., SS, Grosse Pointe Liggett
The Miami (Ohio)-bound shortstop is an outstanding all-around player. He makes things happen from the leadoff spot, hitting .410 last season with 30 stolen bases while only committing four errors in more than 30 games.
10. Chad Lorkowski, Sr., P, Grosse Pointe North
The 6-4 right-hander throws in the low 90s and will be handling the closer’s role this season. He was 4-4 with a 2.42 ERA last season, striking out 49 in 46 innings after a strong sophomore season in which he posted a 9-1 record with a 1.60 ERA.
Others to watch
Drew Alsobrooks, Sr., LHP, Livonia Churchill; Cameron Mallegg, Jr., OF, Grosse Pointe South; Alex Mooney, So., 2B-SS, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s; Alex Morrison, Jr., OF, Saline; Kyle Ray, Sr., RHP-INF., Woodhaven; Nolan Schubart, Fr., OF, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s; Matthew Silka, Sr., RHP, Riverview Gabriel Richard; Colin Sparks, Sr., C, Carleton Airport; Kaden Stively, Sr., LHP, Romeo; Anthony Toma, Sr., 2B, Detroit Country Day.