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Kuster’s gem leads Brother Rice past Detroit Catholic Central for sixth straight CHSL A-B Title

By: Jeff Dullack, May 26, 2017, 2:55 pm

Utica – During Birmingham Brother Rice’s stretch of five consecutive Catholic League A-B championships, one constant has been its pitching as the Warriors hadn’t allowed more than two runs in a CHSL championship game during that stretch.

And on Friday morning, Alex Kuster delivered yet another gem for Brother Rice as it faced Detroit Catholic Central.

Kuster allowed just one run on two hits and carried a shutout into the seventh inning to lead the Warriors to a sixth consecutive A-B title on Friday, 3-1 beating the Shamrocks in the Catholic League final for the second time in four years.

The game, which was played at Jimmy Johns Field in Utica, was originally scheduled to be played on Wednesday night, but was postponed until Friday due to weather.

Kuster noted that while it was disappointing to wait two extra days to play, he and his teammates came in feeling confident and said that he was pleased with his performance on the mound for the Warriors.

“Obviously, we had to wait until today, so we were pretty bummed about that but it was better weather today and we were feeling good today,” he said. “We had a good BP today before we came, so I think the team was feeling good, I know I was feeling good and I think I pitched pretty well out there until the last inning. But all around, it’s just good vibes here and I’m just happy we came out with the W.”

Kuster recorded seven strikeouts while allowing just two hits and a walk to earn the win on the mound, and also tallied a pair of hits on the day as well.

Brother Rice (23-8) skipper Bob Riker said that he felt his senior ace did a good job of getting ahead in the count throughout Friday’s game, which is important, playing under the Catholic League’s 3-ball, 2-strike rule.

“He was ahead in the count most of the time,” he said. “When you’re playing 3-2 ball in the Catholic League and you throw strike one, now you’ve got guys on the defensive. He had a good curveball today and a good changeup and he had some zip on his fastball, so he was changing speeds. Like I said, getting ahead makes it a lot easier in 3-2 ball, and that’s what he did a lot of and we played pretty good defense behind him.”

The Warriors first run of the game came in the second inning on an RBI double from Kevin Tyranski, scoring courtesy runner, who checked in after a base hit by Kuster to make it 1-0 heading to the third

Matching Kuster almost every step of the way through the first 5 innings for the Shamrocks was junior Johnny Lobbia, who limited the Warriors to just two hits in his first five innings of work.

Catholic Central coach Dan Michaels said he was pleased with the performance from his starter, and much like Kuster, Lobbia did a good job of getting ahead in counts.

“He had to be high 70-percent strikes,” he said. “He pounds the zone and then they’ve got to hit his pitch and he’s been doing that for us all year.”

The Warriors would add much needed insurance runs late in the game as a two run sixth inning behind an RBI triple from Jack Orlowski and an RBI single from Gabe Sotres would give Rice a 3-0 lead heading into the seventh.

Those sixth inning runs turned out to be crucial for the Warriors as Catholic Central would plate a run in the top half of the seventh on an RBI infield single off the bat of Joe Merucci to cut the deficit to 3-1.

The Shamrocks would put runners on second and third with two outs after a throwing error by Kuster, but the senior hurler would settle down to record the final out as the Warriors would hang on for yet another Catholic League title.

Kuster, who has been on the bench for the Warriors in each of the past two seasons, said that having the opportunity to watch previous teammates pitch and have success in the Catholic League final helped prepare him for Friday.

“I’ve never really gotten to play at Comerica, which is where it used to be, I’ve always had to watch” he said. “But we’ve always had excellent pitching in the past, so honestly, I never blamed him, but I always got to see how they performed in the championships and I definitely think that helped me kind of handle that pressure and all of the stuff that goes with it. It’s not just a regular game, so you have to really be on your game and I think it helped being able to watch the past couple of years.”