By: Daniel Stickradt
BASEBALL: Northville ends 45-year drought by ending Rochester’s tourney run in quarterfinals
BY DAN STICKRADT
DETROIT — Northville ended one of Michigan’s longest prep baseball droughts Tuesday — and at Rochester’s expense.
Northville advanced to the MHSAA Division 1 for the first time since 1972 — that’s 45 years to be exact — with a 9-5 state quarterfinals victory over red-hot Rochester at Wayne State University.
Northville (29-10) will face Grand Haven at 9 a.m. Thursday morning at Michigan State University’s McLane Baseball Stadium in the state semifinals, as the Mustangs are gunning for their first-ever crown. Top-ranked Saline and No. 2 Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett meet up in the other semifinals contest.
Rochester, which reached the state quarterfinals for the second straight year and won 17 of its final 22 games, committed an uncharacteristic four errors in the contest. The Falcons closed with a 30-12 record and two tournament wins over top-10 ranked programs.
The afternoon belonged to Northville.
“We’ve come close so many times with all of this regional losses over the years,” noted Northville coach John Kostrzewa. “A lot of sad moments to end seasons in the regionals and stuff. We finally got over the hump in the regional. It's nice to get out here and to be able to keep it rolling. So it’s been a very long time. We returned a lot of players this year who really wanted to take the next step and now we’re one of the final four teams left.”
Rochester, which is now 3-3 all-time in state quarterfinals games, grabbed an early 3-0 lead inthe first inning, only to see the Mustangs plate five runs in the third and tack on four more insurance runs in the fifth for a 9-3 advantage.
The Falcons closed with two runs in the bottom half of the seventh but stranded runners on second and third, as the late-night rally fell short. Rochester had scored eight runs in the seventh frame during Saturday’s 10-2 regional finals win over fifth-ranked Birmingham Brother Rice.
“We we’re hoping we had the magic once again, but we fell just a little short,” sighed Rochester coach Eric Magiera. “We certainly had the lineup to do it. We’ve scored lots of runs in one inning several times this season. But when you’re playing so well for such a long time — you’re bound to have a bad inning and we had two bad innings tonight. We won something like 17 of our last 22 games.”
Rochester took the early lead in the bottom half of the first. Drew Loftus picked up a two-out RBI walk with the bases loaded and Ben Compton followed with a two-run double to deep right-center field.
Northville inserted junior right-hander Jonathan Michalak onto the bump in the second frame and he turned away 13 straight Rochester batters following a one-out single in the second until the lead-off man in the seventh.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs erupted for five runs in the top half of the third, sending 11 batters to the plate while collecting five hits, one walk, a hit batsman and another batter that reached base on an error.
Aram Shahrigian laced an RBI single to right, Jake Moody plated another run when he reached base on a botched play, and Alex Garbacik belted a two-run double to right-center for a 4-3 lead. Kevin Morrissey added an RBI single for the fifth run in the frame.
Northville padded its lead in the fifth inning after sending 10 more batters to the plate this time around all while collecting two hits, two walks, a hit batsman and two more runners that reached on errors.
Morrissey broke the game open with his two-run double to deep center for a 7-3 advantage and scored the eighth run when Billy Flohr reached on an error. The Mustangs’ ninth tally came on a bases-loaded walk by Moody.
Michalek, who pitched six strong innings in relief of Ben Schmidt, yielded only five hits — four in the seventh inning — when Rochester was able to close the final gap to four runs.
Matt Hawke slapped an RBI single and Tyler Frankhouse ripped an RBI double near the left field fence to close the gap down to 9-5. Michalak got Rochester’s Ryan Gladstone to line out to right to end the threat and the game, sending the Mustangs into a frenzy.
Morrissey finished 3-for-5 with three RBI to lead the Mustangs. Michalak struck out two and walked none during his stellar five-hitter.
"We had a lot of guys returning from last year so we really felt like our bats would be hot all season long," offered the wide-smile Morrissey. "In the last month or so, we've really been hitting well. It's really good to see all of the hard work we put in in the offseason and at the beginning of the season really pay off. This is what we dreamed about, being to the state semifinals. Now we get our chance.”
Rochester reached the state semifinals in 1985, 1991 and 1997, winning the state title in ’97 and finishing as the runner-up in ’91. The Falcons lost in the quarterfinals in 1998, 2016 and now 2017.
“We have 10 seniors that gave us great leadership and set a great example to the younger players in our program,” added Magiera. “They accomplished a lot for our program, leading us to back-to-back district and regional championships. We just came up a a little short. We came in loose today and we felt good with the early 3-0 lead. But their pitcher hit his spots and kept us (in check) for a long stretch. Give him credit. Not too many pitchers we’ve faced were able to do that to us.”