Birmingham Brother Rice’s pitching and defense bent — but did not break — as Orchard Lake St. Mary’s stranded 11 runners on base in a 7-1 Rice win Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.
The decisive victory gave the Warriors a third consecutive Catholic League A-B championship.
“Today’s win was good for the seniors,” said Brother Rice coach Bob Riker. “Their third title in a row and the third year Matt (Ruppenthal) started and got the win. It’s good for the program, it’s good for the kids, and it’s always nice for the guys to come down and play at a place all the big leaguers play.”
Ruppenthal recorded six strikeouts over St. Mary in the first four innings before Karl Kauffmann came in and struck out eight in the final three innings for the save. The only run the Eaglets could get across home plate came when Drake Titus opened the fifth with a double to the leftfield wall and Devon Rose rapped an RBI single off Ruppenthal.
“St. Mary put the ball in play, they got on base, but we’re able to put it in play a little bit more and make the plays (on defense),” Kauffmann said. “We were really able to shut the door; made big pitches when we had to. Worked through a great game and closed the door for them.
“It was cool to get out there on the mound and get our third one in a row.”
No. 2 ranked Brother Rice (28-2-1) got six RBIs from five players, the seventh run scoring on an error. Ruppenthal was the only batter with two RBIs — on a sacrifice fly in the first inning to score Randy Righter from third, and on a single in the fifth to score Davis Feldman. Both times Ruppenthal purposely went to rightfield.
“At the plate I saw the ball pretty well,” he said. “Obviously at Comerica it’s got a phenomenal batter’s eye. Went up to the plate with a plan and drove the ball to right in the first inning for the sac fly. The next time I also intentionally took it to rightfield with the other RBI. I felt I knew what the pitcher was going to try to do and just hit it where it was pitched.”
Other RBIs came from Righter, Sammy Stevens, Alex Malzone and Bobby Cross.
Riker said this third consecutive league championship comes at good time as the team hopes to go one step further than last year’s Class A state finals runner-up finish with a 1-0 loss to Bay City Western.
“The thing I like the best about our guys right now is they’re coming together as a group, really care about each other,” Riker said. “Early on in the year I think they were not where they needed to be as far as camaraderie goes. With 25 guys it’s hard to kind of keep everybody together, and we’ve really tried to stress playing for each other, rather than playing for yourself, and in the last month they’ve really stepped it up, which I’m pretty proud about.”
Not surprisingly, Ruppenthal said pitching is the Warriors’ key to success.
“Our pitching has been pretty strong this year,” he said. “It’s what, at the end of the day, we’re going to hang our hat on. We’re going to ride that all of the playoffs.
“This is a championship and it feels great to get here and win it again, third time in a row. And now all our sights are on East Lansing and taking that one home.”