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BASEBALL: 2013 StateChamps Diamond Preview – Part 1: The Teams

By: Scott Burnstein, April 12, 2013, 10:00 am

Top 15 prep baseball teams in Metro Detroit (alphabetical order)

Birmingham Brother Rice – Possibly the best team in the state, the Warriors are defending Catholic League champs and once again stock-full of college prospects and multi-year varsity letter-winners. SEC-commits Matt Ruppenthal (Vanderbilt) and Josh Smith (Kentucky) highlight a versatile and balanced pitching corps, while additional college recruits Ty Kiafoulis (Michigan), Nick Plummer, Randy Righter (a top-line pitcher for the club, too), Bobby Cross and Sammy Stevens headline the team’s batting assault. Plummer is a sophomore and considered “five-tool”. Fellow sophomore and returning starter Alex Malzone is someone who can hurt opposing teams as well – he’s also a Division I college recruit in football as a field general, having helped lead Brother Rice to a repeat state title on the gridiron in 2012.

Canton – Junior dominated squad that has a stud senior on the mound in lefty hurler Mike Stafford (Liberty). Nick Hazergian (OF) and Brett Matteson (IB) can both shred at the dish and ignite what could end up being an incredibly effective line-up of position players.

Detroit Western – Top team in the PSL, returns standouts Hector Gutierrez (SS/P), Jose Ramon (2B/P) and Adrian Morales (C), making the Westsiders favorites to repeat as league champions. Gutierrez is one of the best overall players in the state and is signed with the University of Michigan.  

Farmington – The Falcons are a sleeper this spring, finishing below the .500 mark last year. However, with the likes of college-bound stars Connor Mohr (CF/P) and Tyler Tompson (P), heading to Michigan State and Wayne State, respectively, they’ll be a serious contender to do damage in the OAA. Senior Troy Mitchell (1B/P), the school’s quarterback back fall on the football field, is another player to keep an eye out for in Farmington’s line-up.

Grosse Pointe South – Anchored by Mr. Baseball candidate Carmen Benedetti (Michigan), a diverse talent, the Blue Devils are arguably the No. 1 team in Macomb County this season. Benedetti is a lefty first baseman that crushes at the dish and is a power-pitching specialist toeing the slab. When you team him with Jack Doyle, Eddie Champine and Richie Kish, South has a stellar rotation of hurlers and a staff of arms that can go head-to-head with any contingent of throwers in the state.

Lake Orion – Arms, arms and more arms…the Dragons have possibly the deepest pitching rotation in the area, led by the vicious one-two southpaw tandem of senior Nick Deeg (CMU) and junior Brad Schaenzer (numerous high-level DI offers). Deeg is deadly in the batter’s box, too and leads a tough Lake Orion offensive arsenal, alongside Ryan Lembrecht (Madonna) and Josh Bays, another DI recruit dotting the Dragons roster. Nick Vogelmyer flies under the radar, yet could be the hardest No. 4 pitcher around to have to deal with. Lake Orion makes a good argument for itself for being the most dangerous club in the state

Macomb Dakota – Pitching will be a real strength for Dakota’s diamond-cutters this spring, as righty Alex Lewandowski and lefty Travis Berkola combine to make a formidable duo chucking the pill. They’ll each pitch in college, with Lewandowski on his way to Northwood and Berkola inked with Lee University.  

Madison Heights Bishop Foley – While only Division 3, the two-time defending state champion Ventures might be the top squad in the whole state regardless of school-size, that’s how legit Foley is in its quest to become the first program to ever pull off a three-peat on the diamond. What’s scary is that the majority of this locked and loaded bunch of killer competitors is that the majority of them are juniors and sophomores, giving the Ventures the opportunity to make history twice in the next two seasons. At the top of Bishop Foley’s attack is junior pitcher Garrett Schilling, a righty control specialist that hasn’t lost a single game as a prepster. Transfers Mike Reid (U-D Jesuit) and Chad Gravlin (Riverview Gabriel Richard) are both high-impact additions (pitching and hitting wise) and returners Billy Malak (C/3B), Mike Murley (P/IF/OF), Austin Lukaschewski (P/IF/OF), Brad Baldwin (IF/OF) and Nate Grys (OF) will all most likely play college baseball. Grys, only a sophomore, but one heck of an emerging heavy bat, has already committned to play in college at Western Michigan.

Macomb L’anse Creuse North – Saginaw Valley State-signee Nick Ivone (CF) will pace LCN at the plate and on the field defensively and Shane Healy and Mike Michalski are a solid pair of arms to hold down the fort on the pitching side of things.

Novi Detroit Catholic Central – No stars, just a group of rock-steady vets (see such undervalued studs like Nate Wierzgac, Evan Chavis and Nick Malzone) that might wind up being the talk of the Catholic League this year

Orchard Lake St. Marys – Finished strong at the end of last year and brings almost everyone back in search of a repeat Division 2 district title and a shot playing dark horse in the race for the CHSL crown. Connor Bowers, a hard-throwing junior pitcher who transferred to St. Mary’s in the fall from public-school Birmingham Seaholm, will be the Eaglets ace. Senior captain Mike Hodgins (3B) is the leader in the club house, dugout and in the field. He’ll help fuel a line-up peppered with playmakers like Devin Rose (CF) Julian Jones (1B) and Tyson Smith (LF) that gives St. Mary’s quite a bit of pop with its bats.

Sterling Heights Stevenson – All-State junior centerfielder and University of Michigan-commit Brandon Hughes is toe-to-toe with future college teammate Benedetti for the best player in Macomb County bragging rights and that gives Stevenson a chance to pull a repeat league title by itself.

Trenton – Arguably the top Downriver high school club in 2013, the Trojans have a good shot at repeating as league and district champions. J.T. Conti (Wayne State), Wes Sorenson and Grant Vandenberg are a feared trio from the pitching rubber and senior shortstop Nate Donovan (Kalamazoo College) is a dandy on offense and defense, not to mention a terror on the base-paths.

U-D-Jesuit – The Cubbies are expected to be one of the Catholic League’s top dogs this season, spurred on by a group of future college players, two of which are headed to the Big 10 and the University of Michigan together in T.J. Shook (P/OF) and Harrison Wenson (C). Seniors Conrad Kovalcik (1B) and Liam Teevens (OF) will be playing in college at North Carolina Central and Heartland CC in Illinois, respectively next season.

Warren De La Salle – Lots of weapons back from last season’s “Cinderella” state-finals run (seven starters return), led by senior captain and outfielder Cole Clifton, signed with Wayne State for his college ball.