By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Playing their first game since May 29, the Oxford Wildcat baseball program fell to the Clarkston Wolves, 1-0, in a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) District No. 31 semifinal at Lapeer High School on June 5.
Like the Wildcats, Clarkston resides in the Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Red Division, meaning these two teams had played previously in 2021, with Oxford sweeping the three-game set on May 3 and 4.
While this exit came earlier than fans had hoped, the Wildcats still had a tremendous year, finishing 30-8 (11-4 OAA Red), setting a new school record for wins in a season.
Senior right-hander Nolan Kutchey, who finished the year 9-1, took the hard-luck loss for Oxford, allowing just the one run on eight hits over his seven innings, walking a lone Wolf and striking out six.
Junior shortstop Lucas Mckinney drove in the contest’s only run; plating sophomore left fielder Mason King with a second-inning single.
Righty Trevor Busyn, a junior, started for Clarkston, working three innings, surrendering three hits, walking three, and striking out seven. He threw 69 pitches, 41 of which were strikes.
Senior Alex Hayward, also a right-hander, worked the final four frames, keeping the Wildcats out of the hit column, handing out two bases on balls, and punching out three.
Oxford only recorded the three hits in the game, but the team still generated traffic on the basepaths, putting the leadoff man on in five-straight innings, the second through the sixth.
After junior center fielder Brady Carpenter walked to begin the bottom of the fifth, he stole second base and advanced to third on a balk by Hayward, putting him only 90 feet away from tying the game with no outs.
Clinging to their one-run lead, the Wolves elected to bring the infield in with junior third baseman Tony Hatzigeorgiou at the plate.
In what was the play of the game in this observer’s opinion, Hatzigeorgiou hit a rocket of a one-hop ground ball at Clarkston’s second baseman, sophomore Luke Spicer, who knocked the ball up in the air, fielded it with his bare hand, and delivered a perfect throw to junior catcher Luc Brumm to nail Carpenter at home plate, keeping the one-run lead intact.
This was the final game in the career of seven Wildcat seniors: second baseman Josh Brown, shortstop Ethan Burdua, first baseman/right fielder Jack Butzu, first baseman/left-handed pitcher Sean Cooper, Kutchey, left fielder Brendan Moore, and third baseman/designated hitter Joe Roeher.
Taking an early look ahead to 2022, the team is set to return 14 players listed on the end-of-season roster, led by outfielder/left-handed pitcher Eddie Bieniasz, Carpenter, Hatzigeorgiou, right fielder Brandon Kampo, third baseman/right-handed pitcher Owen Schihl, and catcher/right-handed pitcher Gavin Walters.
District No. 31 recap
In the other June 5 semifinal, the Lake Orion Dragons were stunned by the Lapeer Lightning, 10-9, in nine innings.
Lake Orion held a 7-2 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning before the Lightning scored five times, forcing the extra frames.
Lapeer then topped Clarkston, 11-1, in six innings in the district championship game.
The Lightning will play the District No. 32 champions, the Grand Blanc Bobcats, who are hosting the game, in MHSAA Regional Semifinal No. 16 at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
Wildcat statistical leaders
Batting average – Junior Tony Hatzigeorgiou: .432
Hits – Senior Ethan Burdua: 40
Doubles – Junior Gavin Walters: 10
Triples – Junior Eddie Bieniasz, Hatzigeorgiou, and Walters: 2
Home runs – Hatzigeorgiou: 3
Runs batted in (RBI) – Hatzigeorgiou: 30
Stolen bases – Burdua and junior Brady Carpenter: 24
Games – Senior Nolan Kutchey: 13
Games started – Kutchey: 11
Wins – Kutchey: 9
Innings pitched – Kutchey: 71
Earned run average (ERA) – Senior Sean Cooper and sophomore Owen Schihl: 0.94
Strikeouts – Cooper and Kutchey: 58