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BASEBALL: Brother Rice tops OLSM for third straight CHSL A-B title behind pitching and timely hitting

By: Jeff Dullack, May 15, 2014, 8:00 pm

DETROIT – Over the course of the past two years, Birmingham Brother Rice has flexed its muscles in the Catholic League Championship Game, winning each of its’ last two title by at least six runs.

Six was the number again in 2014.

And on Thursday afternoon, the Warriors continued their reign over the CHSL A-B division as the Warriors picked up a convincing 7-1 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at Comerica Park in the CHSL Finals to complete a "three-peat."

Brother Rice manager Bob Riker credited his team for playing together over the course of the past month and cited that type of play has helped lead his team to another league title.

“We’ve really stressed playing for each other and I think that in the last month, they’ve really stepped it up with that and I’m really proud about that,” he said. “If you can’t play for the guy to your right or the guy to your left, then really this game’s not that much fun, but if you play for the guys that you’re there with, it makes the game that much more enjoyable because you’re playing for more than just yourself.”

Riker and the Warriors are 24-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state in Division 1.

After St. Mary’trimmed its deficit down to 3-1 after a Devin Rose RBI single in the fifth, Brother Rice came roaring back in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach.

Senior pitcher Matt Ruppenthal first picked up an RBI single and not long after, recent Michigan football-commit, Alex Malzone followed suit with an RBI single of his own and ended up on third base after a throwing error allowed Ruppenthal to score.

The Warriors then capped the scoring on an RBI off the bat of Bobby Cross that allowed Malzone to cross home plate and push the Brother Rice lead to 7-1.

Ruppenthal believes that winning another Catholic League title is a great accomplishment for him and his teammates, but now the Warriors have to focus their attention on taking home a Division 1 state title next month.

“At the end of the day, it’s a championship,” he said. “It feels great to get here and win it again for a third time in a row, and now all of our sights are set on East Lansing and taking that one home.”

The Warriors wasted little time getting on the scoreboard Thursday, as they struck first in the first inning, taking a 2-0 lead when senior first baseman Randy Righter connected for an RBI triple and Ruppenthal brought in Righter with a sac fly.

A Sammy Stevens RBI single in the second inning pushed the Warriors’ lead to 3-0 and Brother Rice never looked back.

Ruppenthal pitched the first four innings of the game, allowing just one run while striking out seven batters to earn the win, before giving way Karl Kauffmann.

Delivering a fantastic finish, the sophomore sensation and Michigan-commit fanned eight batters in three innings of work without allowing a run.

Ruppenthal, an All-American and SEC signee (Vanderbilt), told reporters following the game that the Brother Rice rotation, which has five reliable arms at its disposal, is what the Warriors always rely on to anchor them as a unit.

“Our pitching has been pretty strong this year,” he said. “It’s what we’re going to hang our hat on and we’re going to ride that all playoffs long.”