By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
The Oxford Wildcats baseball program won all three games they played from April 14-16, extending their win streak to four and bringing their season record to a strong 6-1.
Completing a four-game road swing, the first two of these contests came as the visiting team, as the Wildcats topped the Everest Collegiate Mountaineers, 6-1, on April 14, and the Berkley Bears, 18-3, the next day.
Returning to the friendly confines of Oxford High School on April 16, the program had little issue dispatching a Macomb Area Conference (MAC) Red Division foe, the Utica Eisenhower Eagles, 10-1.
Senior right-hander Nolan Kutchey picked up the win against Utica Eisenhower, throwing five innings of one-hit, shutout baseball. He walked only one and struck out six, needing just 71 pitches, 45 of which found the strike zone.
Junior second baseman/third baseman Tony Hatzigeorgiou, who finished 2-for-4, began the scoring with a home run in the first inning, sending an offering from Eagles junior Josh Bussineau an easy 20-to-25 feet over the left field wall.
Catcher Gavin Walters, a fellow junior, added three hits, including two doubles, and right fielder Brandon Kampo, another junior, extended the lead to 3-0 with a single in the fourth inning.
One of the most impressive facts of the Utica Eisenhower victory was Wildcat hitters did not register a single strikeout, a testament to the commitment to battling at the plate head coach Dave Herrick talked about when The Oxford Leader caught up with following the win over the Oakland Christian Lancers on April 9.
This 6-1 start is the program’s best mark through their first seven games of Herrick’s seven-year tenure.
“It’s the competitiveness of this group,” the coach began. “Whether they’re down 0-2 in the count or we’re down in the game, there’s no quit in this group. I love how we’re playing, how we’re fighting.
“We’re playing 21 outs every game and they just love to be together. The cohesiveness of this group is something I haven’t had in my seven years. Whether it’s a kid who hasn’t played in a game or the kid who got the home run in the first inning, everybody’s excited for whoever’s getting the job done, and I think that’s why we’re in the situation we are at 6-1. We have no selfish players and they’re excited for everybody, whoever’s getting the job done.”
There has been some shuffling in the Wildcats’ batting order through their first seven games, such as senior shortstop Ethan Burdua, who began the year hitting eighth and is now occupying the leadoff spot. One spot that has not changed, however, is the No. 3 hole, where Hatzigeorgiou has been locked-in since the beginning.
“Coming in (to the season), he didn’t have any varsity experience, but he’s solidified himself as our three-hole hitter,” Herrick said.
“Every time he steps to the plate, he’s not giving at-bats away, he’s hitting the ball hard, moving runners over when we need him to and he’s doing a great job on the mound for us, as well, when his number is called to pitch. At the plate, it’s fun to watch him swing.”
Oxford began Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Red Division play on Monday with a home doubleheader against the Rochester Adams Highlanders and will travel to Rochester Adams to complete the three-game set on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
The team will play in a tournament in Plymouth on Saturday, before returning home to welcome in the rival Lake Orion Dragons for two games on Monday, with the first beginning at 4 p.m.
By Teddy Rydquist