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Groves gets past Brother Rice in districts, looks to get past Adams

By: Tom Markowski, June 8, 2016, 4:24 pm

Beverly Hills – Shawn Morrison is learning fast.

Birmingham Groves upset Birmingham Brother Rice, 8-6, in a Division 1 district final last Saturday and will play Rochester Adams in a regional semifinal this Saturday at Bloomfield Hills High at 10 a.m.

Morrison is in his first season as head coach at Groves and although he is not totally familiar with the friendly rivalry that exists between the two Birmingham public schools (Seaholm is the other) and Brother Rice he does understand the aura that surrounds a private school like Brother Rice and the talented players that play for that school.

Brother Rice graduates DJ LeMahieu (2007) and Nick Plummer (2015) were both selected as Mr. Baseball by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association. This season Karl Kauffmann, Brother Rice’s ace, is one of the top candidates for Mr. Baseball this year.

And Brother Rice is a team that’s won five consecutive Catholic League titles and has won three state titles.

And Groves? Well, Groves hasn’t won any state titles and has, for the most part, been a non-player in the state baseball tournament.

“I love being the dark horse, that we’re overlooked,” Morrison said. “It’s good to sneak up on guys.”

The rationale here is if your team isn’t expected to win the pressure is on the other team. At this level most teams, i.e. players, play better when they’re loose.

Groves is 31-9 and 13 of its games have been decided by one run. Playing in closely contested games can only help a team come tournament time.

Morrison, a graduate of Walled Lake Central, has done an admirable job taking over for longtime coach Jim Crosby. Groves has six seniors but four are non-starters. The top senior is third baseman Joe Roberts who was selected to the all-district team.

Juniors Max Novick and Andrew Martin are the top two starters, and outfielder John Kowalchuk is the top hitter with a .424 batting average. As a team Groves is hitting .320.

“With our lineup we go right, left, right, left, throughout,” Morrison said. “And that’s always a good thing. Our guys play pitch by pitch. They go through the process.”