Kennedy pitching staff hasn’t allowed a run in the tournament, faces Portage Northern in Division 1 quarterfinal
Taylor – Pitching is at a premium in the state tournament and this axiom fits Taylor Kennedy like a glove.
Kennedy hasn’t allowed a run in its four tournament games and the Eagles attempt to add to their 27-inning scoreless streak when they play Portage Northern in a Division 1 quarterfinal on Tuesday at the University of Michigan at 4 p.m.
Kennedy (29-9) opened the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Belleville. It took just six innings for the Eagles to defeat Wayne Memorial, 13-0, in a district final. In last Saturday’s regional at Saline, Kennedy beat Wyandotte, for the third time this season, 2-0 and then pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when it defeated top-ranked Saline 1-0 in the regional final.
This is believed to be Kennedy’s first regional title since 1988 when Steve Avery led the Eagles to the Class A final. Birmingham Seaholm won the title with an 11-9 victory.
This group is led by two senior hurlers, lefthander Tyler Butzin and right-hander Cody Serafin. Butzin signed with Eastern Michigan, Serafin with Henry Ford Community College.
Butzin is 7-1 with a 1.05 ERA and Serafin is 6-2 with a 1.40 ERA.
Kennedy is coached by Bryan Boyd. Boyd spent four seasons as Plymouth’s head coach and was at North Farmington last season as the junior varsity coach before coming to Kennedy.
Boyd is in the right place at the right time and, yes, Kennedy would have had a good team even if he wasn’t the head coach but Boyd certainly deserves some of the credit.
“We’ve thrown strikes this year,” he said. “We have a deep pitching staff. We knew we had a good team when the season started.”
Neither Butzin nor Serafin walked a batter in the regional.
Boyd said both have shown great control all season. The Eagles aren’t that impressive offensively but each batter in the lineup contributes. Defensively Kennedy is solid. Led by shortstop Mateo Perez the Eagles made a number of plays in the field that helped keep the scoreless streak in tack.
Another reason for Kennedy’s success is the competition it’s played, specifically in the Downriver League. Kennedy finished in a three-way tie for first with Allen Park and Woodhaven. Glenn Gulliver, Allen Park’s coach, said earlier this season that the pitching in his league had never been better.
“Just how strong the Downriver League was this year was a huge help for us,” Boyd said. “I’m taken aback by the pitching in the league. It seemed like everybody had an ace. At one time we had three teams ranked in the top 10. When we got ranked that put a bulls-eye on us. Teams will throw their ace when they’re playing a ranked team.
“And we’ve seen a lot of good pitching in the tournament. Eddie McWilliams at Belleville finished with an ERA of 0.38 or something. Wyandotte’s pitcher was good and so was Saline’s.
“And you don’t win 29 games without picking the ball up. Perez made a number of good plays on Saturday. On one he went deep in the hole and (we) turned the double play. You need performances like that to beat a good team like Saline.”
Boyd said his team relishes the role of the underdog. Kennedy doesn’t have the tradition of teams like Bay City Central, which won the last two titles, a Saline or Birmingham Brother Rice. The players at Kennedy want respect and they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder. And that can be a good thing.
It is this year. B.C. Central, Saline and Brother Rice all lost in the regionals. Kennedy is still playing.
(Photo Credit: Michael Vasilnek)