Monday, May 28, 2012

Oakland County Softball District Preview

Davison District
Winner: Grand Blanc
Explanation – Grand Blanc is the most complete team in this district with the combination of pitching and hitting, and that’s the key to get to regionals.

U-D Jesuit District
Winner: Detroit Renaissance
Explanation – This might be the easiest road to regionals in the state, and Renaissance has the best team.

Warren Regina District
Winner: Warren Regina
Explanation – Home field advantage is always a plus for teams, but Regina doesn’t really need it. Regina will cruise.

Troy Athens District
Winner: Troy Athens
Explanation – This was easily the hardest district to predict and it will come down to rivals Troy and Troy Athens. Usually I’d give the upper hand to the team with the experience and that’s Troy. But pitching in the postseason is the difference maker and Athens has just that with Haley Zemmer.

Utica District
Winner: Rochester
Explanation – The Falcons have been overlooked all year long, but have quietly put together an impressive season. Romeo will head into this district as the favorite, but Rochester will continue its Cinderella season.

Lake Orion District
Winner: Clarkston
Explanation – The Wolves have been one of the county’s top teams all year long, and they shouldn’t have much trouble moving onto regionals. Megan Hastings and Sydney Hasselbach will give Clarkston all of the offense it will need.

Lakeland District
Winner: Lakeland
Explanation – Lakeland is now at full strength and they are making teams pay for it now. With Selena Hicks back and Kelly Merkle, Sierra Burke and Hannah Szajner among others playing well, Lakeland has as good of a shot as any to be playing for it all in a few weeks.

Brighton District
Winner: South Lyon
Explanation – South Lyon and Brighton are the only two teams in this district with winning records, so I’ll give the advantage to the Oakland County team.

Southfield-Lathrup District
Winner: Birmingham Groves
Explanation – The district winner will likely be West Bloomfield or Birmingham Groves. West Bloomfield has the always strong pitching from Allyson Kus, while Groves has Keely Nowland. But the difference maker could very well be Zoe Schmerin who can flat out hit.

North Farmington District
Winner: Farmington Hills Mercy
Explanation – As long as North Farmington advances to the semifinals, Saturday’s semifinal between the Raiders and Mercy could be one for the ages. Mercy’s Kayce Nieto has thrown three no-hitters in a row this year, while North’s Katy Severson has thrown a perfect game and a no-hitter as well. The first team to score just might end up winning.

Livonia Ladywood District
Winner: Livonia Ladywood
Explanation – There’s a reason why Ladywood was Catholic League champs this year and it’s the same reason the Blazers will be District champs.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep District
Winner: Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Explanation – Experience is always a positive in the postseason and the Irish have tons of it on this year’s squad and that will make the difference this week.

Warren Fitzgerald District
Winner: Hazel Park
Explanation – It’s been a pretty memorable season for Hazel Park this year, but it won’t end this week thanks to its impressive lineup.

New Haven District
Winner: Madison Heights Bishop Foley
Explanation – The Ventures have had a nice season this year and have done it quietly, but Bishop Foley will make some noise with its offense once the playoffs get under way.

Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes District
Winner: Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes
Explanation – Lakes has continued to dominate this district year after year and this year won’t be any different.

Southfield Christian District
Winner: Southfield Christian
Explanation – Southfield Christian has too much talent to lose this early, and head coach Ken Brown will be retiring at the end of the season and the Eagles are looking to send him out on top.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Oakland County Baseball District Preview

Davison District
Winner: Davison
Explanation – Davison has the best pitching and the best hitting out of this district. Not sure if there is anything else that the Cardinal need.

U-D Jesuit District
Winner: U-D Jesuit
Explanation – It always helps to have a district on your own field, but Jesuit doesn’t need the home field advantage.  Jesuit will have no trouble here.

Warren De La Salle District
Winner: Warren Mott
Explanation – I’ve always been a believer in strong pitching is what wins in the postseason and Mott has just that in senior Lucas Ross.

Troy Athens District
Winner: Auburn Hills Avondale
Explanation – Back to the topic of pitching in the postseason, the Yellowjackets have who might be the most underrated pitcher in the state. Senior ace A.J. Susick has been dominant all season long, posting a 10-1 record and an ERA of under 1.00. It also helps that Avondale is one of the better hitting teams in the area as well.

Utica Eisenhower
Winner: Stoney Creek
Explanation – Once again, pitching wins in the postseason, and if that’s the case, the final should come down to Romeo and Stoney Creek and I’ll give the edge to Zak Northrup and Co. Nikko Gonzalez should carry the load offensively for the Cougars.

Lake Orion District
Winner: Lake Orion
Explanation – It’s been five years since the Dragons won a district and most know what else Lake Orion did in 2007, they won the state title and this year’s squad might be capable of doing just that. With Brad Schaenzer and the OC’s Randy Johnson, Nick Deeg, Lake Orion could be well on its way to a long run in the state tourney.

Lakeland District
Winner: Hartland
Explanation – It’s going to take a big time upset in this district for someone to unseat Hartland. Just too much pitching for the rest of the teams to score enough runs in order to knock off the Eagles.

Brighton District
Winner: Walled Lake Western
Explanation – Western’s Cam Vieaux has been as dominant as it gets this year, averaging almost two strikeouts per inning and holding an ERA of under 1.50. But look out for rival Walled Lake Central who has shown that it can beat the Warriors.

Southfield-Lathrup District
Winner: Birmingham Brother Rice
Explanation – The biggest argument against the Warriors this year has been their youth. So what? Talent is what wins and Brother Rice has tons of it. With Brothers Mike and Matt Ruppenthal taking care of the pitching duties, teams are going to need more than a little bit of luck to score multiple runs against the Warriors.

North Farmington District
Winner: North Farmington
Explanation – This was probably the hardest district to predict, but North Farmington looks like a team ready for a playoff run. It won’t be easy as the Raiders will take on Farmington on Tuesday, then Catholic Central and likely Novi in the final, but North Farmington might be able to squeak by in the end.

Livonia Ladywood District
Winner: Dearborn Divine Child
Explanation – The only team that might have gotten an easier draw than Divine Child might be U-D Jesuit.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep District
Winner: Bloomfield Hills Andover
Explanation – Andover can do it all, whether it’s hitting or pitching, the Barons have one of the best squads from top to bottom. There isn’t a team in this district that can match Andover’s pitching staff and that will be the difference next week.

Warren Fitzgerald District
Winner: Ferndale
Explanation – Saturday’s district final should come down to Ferndale and Madison Heights Lamphere, and Ferndale has what Lamphere doesn’t: experience. That will be what makes the difference for Ferndale.

New Haven District
Winner: Madison Heights Bishop Foley
Explanation – Does there really need to be an explanation? The Ventures are back and better than ever in a year where many expected them to have to rebuild. Brian Bayliss has been as good of an ace as any this year and the Ventures are dominating opposing pitching this year.

Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes District
Winner: Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest
Explanation – Lutheran Northwest continues to dominate this district with some of the best pitching and hitting from top to bottom. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes will challenge the Crusaders, but in the end, Lutheran Northwest will move on to regionals once again.

Southfield Christian District
Winner: Novi Franklin Road Christian
Explanation – Franklin Road Christian is quickly becoming of the state’s top powers in Division 4. But what separates it from the rest of the schools is the fact that this squad has a couple of eighth graders to fill out its roster. Look out for junior Nick Harris who can flat out hit, as he’s hitting over .500 this year.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Warriors Way

Walled Lake Western’s Devin Reed tore up the track last Friday at the Milford Division 1 track and field regional and now he’s being rewarded for his impressive performance.
Shortly after taking a pair of first places and two more second places, Reed was offered to run for the University of Detroit Mercy. Then Reed was invited to run at the Midwest Regional track meet, a meet for the top athletes in the Midwest.

Not too bad of a week is it?

Next weekend, Reed will take aim at trying to win a state title at East Kentwood in the Division 1 meet.

Joining Reed at the state meet will be Vinny Gjokaj who committed to throw for Michigan State back in the fall. Gjokaj is one of the state’s and nation’s top discus throwers after his throw of over 183 feet earlier this season. Gjokaj, who has cleared the 50 foot mark in shot put, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of trying to play some football for the Spartans in the fall either.

Gjokaj could have some company in East Lansing after next year as Warrior junior defensive back Josh Jones recently was offered to continue his football career past next season at Michigan State. Jones recently committed to play for the University of Toledo, but there is a strong chance that he changes his commitment at some point before next February’s signing day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Elite Eight - Oakland County Girls Softball Rankings

The Eagles are peaking at the right time after pummeling the state’s No. 5 team, Plymouth 12-4 in the KLAA Association tournament. The return of Selena Hicks has been a big boost, and the Lakeland lineup might be the best in the state from top to bottom. Lakeland is primed for a run to cereal city.

2. Clarkston
With an OAA Red title in hand, Clarkston is looking like as good of a bet as any to end up in Battle Creek. The Wolves have been as consistent as it gets both in the field and at the plate and that should carry over into the posteseason.

3. Farmington Hills Mercy
Kayce Nieto has been flat out dominant this year, after throwing three consecutive no-hitters and the Marlins have been able to score some runs as well. It’s all coming together for the Marlins and with the type of pitching that they have, they’re the last team anybody wants to face come playoff time.

4. North Farmington
Speaking of dominant pitching, Katy Severson has been lights out lately. She has thrown a no-hitter and a perfect game in less than a week while combining for another no-hitter as well. The Raiders are also rolling on offense, so this will be a force to be reckoned with in the weeks to come.

5. Troy
After a slow start, the Colts have been one of the hottest teams in the state and they won’t be slowing down any time soon. With the senior presence of Kamryn LaCarter and Laney Hart as well as Kristen Shelter, Troy is a team with a ton of experience and it will come in handy throughout the playoffs.

6. Troy Athens
Haley Zemmer is setting records at an impressive rate, and she’s not a senior, nor a junior, but a sophomore. Zemmer has the pitching and Melissa Palmer has the hitting, and this duo will make the Red Hawks a hard team to eliminate in the tournament.

7. Rochester
The Falcons have been winning quietly, but they will make their fair share of noise come playoff time. Senior Maggie Irvine can get the job done in a number of ways, whether it’s at the plate with some power or in the outfield where she’s become one of the area’s top defensive players.

8. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Much like Troy, the Irish have a ton of experience and it will be a big boost over the course of the next couple of weeks. With a senior laden team led by Katy Roose, Courtney Wroubel and Gabby Fazio, the Irish can and will score runs during their tournament run.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Winners - Raising the Bar

With regional track meets all wrapped up, here's a look at some of the top performances from the weekend and how they stack up against the top athletes from around the state as the state meets are less than two weeks away.

Lakeland’s Garret Zuk put on a show on Friday at Milford that won’t be forgotten any time soon. Zuk dominated the 3200 meter run from start to finish as he crossed the finish line with a time of 9:00.9 and beat the second place runner by exactly 20 seconds. With his time in the 3200 meter run, Zuk is now the top ranked athlete in the event in the state.

Even though Auburn Hills Avondale’s Kyle Redwine was disqualified in the 200 meter dash, the senior still won the 100 meter dash with a red-hot time of 10.40 and ran legs on the first place 400 meter and 1600 meter relay teams. Redwine is the fourth ranked sprinter in the 100 and No. 1 in the state with a top time of 10.34.

Redwine isn’t the only Avondale runner that heads into the Division 2 state meet as he will be joined by Nate Chapman who clocked a 48.5 400 meter dash time which ranks him third in the state and first in Division 2. Chapman also won the 800 meter run, and joined Redwine on the 1600 meter relay team.

Birmingham Detroit Country Day looks like it is in a great spot to be in contention for a state title on the girls side, as Brittney Mann won both the shot put and the discus with ease. The Yellowjackets also have Kendall Baisden back from injury as the junior took home the regional title in the 400 dash and ran legs on the first place 400 meter and 800 meter relay teams.
Country Day also has 100 meter dash regional champion Sydney Cureton who also anchored the 400 relay team for the Yellowjackets on Friday.
Mann is the top ranked thrower in the state in both throwing events, while Baisden is already the No. 1 400 runner in the state for Division 2 and is fourth overall.

Ortonville Brandon’s Tiffani Owens matched the 11.94 time of Cureton on Friday in the 100 dash as the two sprinters are tied for the top spot in the event.
Owens also went on to win the 200 dash with a time of 25.04 which ranks her as the second best athlete and the top runner in Division 1 for the 200.

On Saturday, Farmington’s Aaron Howell put together an impressive performance of her own as Howell won the long jump with an impressive leap of 19 feet and later picked up a regional title in the 300 meter hurdles. Howell’s jump ranks her second in the state, less than two inches off of the state’s best mark this year.

West Bloomfield’s Erin Finn was her usual dominant self on Saturday at Farmington as Finn won regional titles in the 1600 meter run as well as the 3200 meter run where she beat the rest of the field by nearly a full minute. Finn’s time in the 3200 is tops in the state and fifth in the nation and fourth in the state in the 1600.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Sarah Barron won the 1600 run at Bloomfield Hills Lahser, blowing away the redt of the field in the 1600 run as well as the 800 run and was on the first place 1600 relay team. Barron is currently the No. 1 1600 and 800 runner in Division 2 (No. 2 overall).

To the surprise of nobody, Walled Lake Central’s Cullen Prena continued to shatter records as he set a Milford regional record in the discus event with a toss of 182-11 while also grabbing a win in the shot put. Prena currently ranks No. 1 in Division 1 in the state for both shot put and discus.
Staying on the topic of Walled Lake Central throwing, junior Josephine Jackson won the shot put with a toss of 35-2.5 and took second place in the discus event. Jackson is tied for sixth in the state in discus with a throw over 128 feet last week.

Walled Lake Western’s pole vaulting trio of Connor Westphal, Jacob Janke and Parin Kothari continued their remarkable seasons as they finished in first, third and fourth on Friday at Milford.
Western’s Devin Reed won the 100 meter dash and was also on the first place 800 meter relay team for the Warriors.

Lake Orion’s Alex Roberts won both hurdle events and the long jumpat the Ortonville Brandon regional while Cory Ester won the 100 meter dash and was on the 1600 relay team. Roberts ranks fifth in the 300 hurdles and the 110’s while Ester also finds himself in the top 10 for the 100 dash.

Milford’s Brandon Wallace and Brian Kettle both put together strong showing on their home track as Wallace dominated the rest of the field in the 800 while Kettle outkicked everyone to win the 1600 run. Kettle is the No. 2 ranked runner in Michigan in the 1600.
Holly’s Luke Schwerin won the 800 in the Brandon regional, crossing the finish line in under 1:55 and is in the top five in the state in the event.

Jeff Aririguzo has flown under the radar for much of the season, but once again ran away with wins in the 100 and 200 meter dashes and ran a leg on the first place 400 relay team for West Bloomfield. The senior sprinter is now in the top five in Division 1 and is ranked 10th overall in the 200.

Walled Lake Northern’s Ryan Smitt won the 400 meter dash by a full second at Milford, and also ran a leg on the first place 1600 meter relay team. Smitt now ranks eighth in the 400 run in the state for Division 1.

Novi’s Kerri McMahon ranks second overall in the state in the high jump after her jump of 5-6 at the Farmington regional on Saturday.

The Pavlika sisters, Sam and Taylor, continued their strong seasons in the throwing events as Sam took first in both the shot put and the discus while Taylor placed second in the discus and fourth in the shot put. Sam is the No. 1 thrower in Division 1 in shot put and is in the top 10 in the discus. Taylor ranks 16th overall in discus.

Oxford’s Brooke Kovacic won the 1600 run as well as the 3200 at Brandon on Friday and is in the top 10 for the 3200 and finds herself just outside the top 10 in the 1600.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Oakland County Girls Softball Power Rankings

1. Clarkston
Clarkston has been playing like the best team in Oakland County from day one on from a pitching and hitting perspective. Sydney Hasselbach continues to be one of the area’s most dangerous hitters while Madeline Maday has developed into an ace in the circle.

2. Lakeland
The Eagles have been quietly dominant this year, racking up the wins in a number of ways, including their fourth straight Pieper tournament this past weekend. With Selena Hicks back in the fold, the Eagles are right on track for another playoff run.

3. Farmington Hills Mercy
Mercy’s record won’t wow you, but the Marlins have played extremely well against one of the toughest schedules around. Paired with some top pitching and hitting, the Marlins are looking like an extremely dangerous team come playoff time.

4. Troy
A bit of a rough start to open the season, but the talent is beginning to show through on a number of levels for the Colts who have what could be the best infield in all of Oakland County.

5. Troy Athens
Melissa Palmer and Haley Zemmer are two of the most dangerous players that the area has to offer. Both are top notch offensive players, while Zemmer has become one of the most dangerous pitchers in the county.

6. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
This might be the most complete team around, the Irish have no weaknesses on this year’s squad and look like they will be the last team that anyone wants to face in the playoffs. Here’s the scary part, we might not have seen their best yet.

7. North Farmington
It hasn’t been the most ideal season for the Raiders, but they are the most talented team in the area and they are one of the most experienced as well. That’s going to help them down the stretch.

8. Rochester
The Falcons have been a bit of a surprise this year, but make no mistake, this team is legit. A big reason for Rochester’s success this season has been pitcher Haley Lenderman who has emerged as one of the area’s top pitchers.

9. Birmingham Groves
Groves has proven that they can flat out hit over the past few weeks and behind the very consistent pitching of Keely Nowland and hitting from Zoe Schmerin. The Falcons are rounding into form at just the right time with the playoffs just around the corner.

10. Waterford Mott
The Corsairs have been as steady as they come this season with pitcher Devin Schomberg showing the ability to shut down just about any offense. Don’t forget about Mott’s ability to hit as well, very capable hitters throughout the lineup.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oakland County Baseball Power Rankings - Pitchers Paradise

1.       Birmingham Brother Rice
Nobody in the state is on the same level as the Warriors. Not with the pitching that Brother Rice has right now, most notably, Mike Ruppenthal who has a 4-1 record with an ERA of just 1.00. On the other hand, Matt Ruppenthal has been just as dangerous, flirting with a no-hitter a couple of times this year.

2.       Madison Heights Bishop Foley
Some felt that this season would be a rebuilding year for the Ventures, but instead they’ve just reloaded as the Ventures have gotten out to a 24-2 start behind ace Brian Bayliss.

3.       Lake Orion
The Dragona have the best 1-2 pitching punch outside of the Ruppenthal brothers with Nick Deeg and Brad Schaenzer who are both capable of striking out over 10 batters in just about any game.

4.       Walled Lake Western
Many thought the Warriors would have to hold on and wait until Jason Gamble returned from injury, but Cam Vieaux and Chris Stepek have both stepped up and have been true aces for the Warriors this season. This is a team built for the playoffs.

5.       Bloomfield Hills Andover
Gabe Berman is the real deal, teams just can’t slow him down and he seems to get stronger and stronger. If teams are going to beat Andover this season, they’ll have to match Berman pitch for pitch, and that’s just not going to happen very often.

6.       Stoney Creek
Zak Northrup has quietly been one of the area’s top pitchers with his ability to stymie opposing hitters and has been racking up the wins this season.

7.       Auburn Hills Avondale
Speaking of taking care of business quietly, Avondale has done just that and is in line for a league title thanks to a nice combo of hitting and defense.

8.       Walled Lake Central
If Central was going to be successful this season, then the Vikings would need someone to step into a starting pitching role and Brett Gustafson has done just that and has already tossed a no-no this year.

9.       Novi
The Wildcats are one of the top defensive teams around and are starting hit their peak at the right time offensively. This will be a team that nobody wants to face come playoff time.

10.   Clarkston
Clarkston has been one of the area’s hottest teams as of late, including a pair of doubleheader sweeps over Rochester Adams and Stoney Creek.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Diamond Cutters

Since Saturday’s post, pitchers from the county have continued to put on dominant performances on the diamond as Brian Bayliss, Brett Gustafson and Sterling Sharp have all tossed no-hitters of their own, but in this post I’m going to hit on some diamond cutters that have done some damage at the plate.

Logan Regnier – Novi
Regnier is the definition of a five-tool player with his ability to hit for average and power while displaying lightning quick speed. Don’t forget that he’s also one of the top defensive outfielders in the state.

Niklas Heglin – Walled Lake Western
Heglin has been red-hot since the start of the season as he’s hit .556 and an on-base percentage that is well over .600 with 12 runs scored.

Dylan Peck – Clarkston
Peck has been one of the most consistent players in Oakland County at the plate, hitting for both average and power while driving in plenty of runs so far this season.

Ryan Roman/Luke Ortel – Madison Heights Bishop Foley
With teams looking to find a way to shut down Brett Sunde, Roman and Ortel have stepped up in a big way for the Ventures who look poised for another state title run thanks to this trio.

Niko Gonzalez – Stoney Creek
Gonzalez came into the season as one of the top hitters around and he hasn’t disappointed this year, as he’s continued to get on base and drive in runs in all sorts of ways.

Tommy Eng – Troy Athens
Eng is one of the county’s top contact hitters and he’s as dangerous as anyone once he gets on base with his ability to swipe a bag at any time.

Zac Leimbach/K.J. Schultz – Walled Lake Central
Much like Eng, Leimbach and Schultz have gotten on base early and often this season and their damage doesn’t stop there as they have proven to be two to the area’s best at stealing bases and scoring runs.

Grace Kennedy – Birmingham Seaholm
Kennedy has continued to be one of the area’s top hitters after a strong freshman year and started off this year hitting a red-hot .460 on the season already and has been one of the most consistent players at driving in runs all year. Kennedy also has received plenty of interest from Division 1 schools already.

Sydney Hasselbach – Clarkston
Hasselbach has been one of the most underrated players all year long, but is as dangerous as anyone, hitting for power and average at an impressive clip while also playing some top notch defense in the field.

Shelbie Farris – Hazel Park
Farris has burst onto the scene this year, proving to be one of the top power hitters in the county and coaches and pitchers have taken note already.

Haley Zemmer – Troy Athens
Zemmer is showing that not only can she pitch, but she can hit as well and last Saturday’s performance showed just that as she drove in 11 runs in a three game span.

Maggie Vosler/Christina Guerra – Southfield Christian
Another two players that havebeen extremely underrated this season as the junior combo has been giving opposing pitchers nightmares all season long as Vosler has hit .500 with 21 runs scored while Guerra has hit .349 with 15 RBI and nine extra base hits.

Zoe Schmerin – Birmingham Groves
Schmerin has been a jack-of-all trades for the Falcons this year, showing some power and also some speed as she’s had plenty of triples already and she has also come through in the clutch as well.

Kim Jayson – Waterford Kettering
Jayson has been a big time power hitter this year, batting right in the middle of the Captain line-up and has been driving in runs left and right all year long.

Kamryn LaCarter – Troy
LaCarter has been as consistent as they come this year, getting on base in a number of ways and once she does reach base, there’s a better than good chance that she’ll score.