Hit .299, with 22 RBIs and pitched to a 6-1 record during senior year at Oxford
By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
On June 22, the first annual Macomb Area Conference (MAC)-Oakland Activities Association (OAA) All-Star Game was played at Utica’s Jimmy John’s Field, home of the United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL).
Featuring 42 of the best high school seniors the two leagues have to offer, 21 on each team, the MAC ended up prevailing, 7-5.
Warren Mott’s Shawn Maloney served as the MAC’s head coach, with Sterling Heights’ Bobby Lindsay, Sterling Heights Stevenson’s Matt Paddock, and Chippewa Valley’s Gregg Sadowski rounding out his staff.
For the OAA, Lake Orion’s Andy Schramek was the manager, with Stoney Creek’s Paul Diegel, Avondale’s Tommy Kurczewski, and Southfield A&T’s Darren Moseley as his assistants.
These 42 student-athletes represented 32 different schools, 17 from the MAC and 15 from the OAA, and one Oxford Wildcat made the trip, left-handed pitcher/first baseman Sean Cooper.
Starting at first base for the OAA, Cooper also pitched the bottom of the fifth inning, allowing just an unearned run and walking and striking out one.
A cool feature of the exhibition contest, like has traditionally been done in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the participating players wore the jerseys of their respective schools, with the MAC wearing their lights and the OAA darks.
“Coach (Dave) Herrick put forward some names and some of the coaches from those teams decided who they wanted to take,” Cooper shared of how his selection in this game came to be.
“I was the selection from our team, but there were selections from Lake Orion and a bunch of other teams in the OAA, too.”
Competing at the high school level, and in some cases playing with or against one another on their summer teams, many of these members of the Class of 2021 had at least a loose familiarity with their teammates for the day and this bonding experience and chance to meet some other players was one of Cooper’s highlights of the day.
“I thought it was really cool getting to know people,” he said. “There were all these names of kids I’d heard about before and I got to play with some really good ballplayers. Just getting to know and play with kids from all around.”
Most of the participants in the game have signed to play at the collegiate level, including St. Clair Shores South Lake’s T.J. McAllister, who took home the Great Lakes Bat Company Most Valuable Player Award and is set to continue his career at Wayne State in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).
As of now, Cooper is planning to focus on academics at Michigan State University in East Lansing but has not shut the door on opportunities to continue playing baseball.
“I’m not 100 percent going to MSU, but I’m most likely going there,” he shared. “I didn’t have a ton of opportunities until this summer, but I have some colleges I’m talking to. I had a couple of small offers, but mostly, the education at MSU is better than most of the schools I looked at for baseball is why I chose that.
“It’s not going to be a full-ride or anything because it’s pretty late into the recruiting, but I’m looking around.”
Cooper is playing this summer for the 18-and-under (18U) Oakland Bulldogs, one of Metro Detroit’s top travel programs, and if his senior season Wildcat statistics are any indication, a school that offers him a roster spot will be making a strong addition to their 2021 recruiting class.
Hitting .299 (26-for-87) with three doubles and 22 runs batted in (RBI), Cooper was also arguably Oxford’s best pitcher, posting a 6-1 record and 0.95 earned run average (ERA) in 44.1 innings over nine games (eight starts), while tying for the team lead with 58 strikeouts.
His contributions played a major role in the Wildcats finishing 30-8 (11-4 OAA Red), breaking a single-season school record for wins that had stood since 1998 in the process.
“I really enjoyed the team itself, we bonded so well,” Cooper said of his final prep campaign. “We were all friends on the team, so there was never really any bad blood, everyone was always picking each other up.
“Even if someone had a bad game, no one was blaming the kid, it was all about picking them up, we were a good team in that way. Most of us have been playing together for seven-plus years, I know I’ve played with Jack Butzu and Brady (Carpenter) and Ethan (Burdua) since we were like 10 or 11 years old.”
Oxford’s 2021 season came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Clarkston Wolves in a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) District No. 31 Semifinal on June 5.
Looking ahead to 2022, the Wildcats are tasked with replacing Cooper and six other seniors, Josh Brown, Burdua, Butzu, Nolan Kutchey, Brendan Moore, and Joe Roeher.
Fortunately, Herrick, who will be entering his eighth season at the helm of the program, and assistant coach Aaron Carpenter have proven themselves to be excellent motivators of young men and have demonstrated the ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster.
The team does include several members of the Class of 2022 with experience and production at the high school level, led by outfielder/left-handed pitcher Eddie Bieniasz, Carpenter, who plays center field, infielder Tony Hatzigeorgiou, outfielder Brandon Kampo, and catcher/right-handed pitcher Gavin Walters. 2023 third baseman/right-handed pitcher Owen Schihl fits this description, too.