By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Extending their win streak to a season-long nine games, the Oxford Wildcat baseball program posted a 6-0 record from May 24-29.
This run of success brings the team’s 2021 record to 30-7 (11-4 Oakland Activities Association Red Division), surpassing the 1998 squad’s school record of 29 wins in a campaign.
Lasting for 23 years, the previous mark was set five-to-seven years before the young men on the current roster were born.
The week’s action began with a trip to Concordia University in Ann Arbor to battle the Gabriel Richard Fighting Irish, a member of the Catholic High School League (CHSL), in a doubleheader on May 24.
Outscoring the Fighting Irish by a total of 16-0, the Wildcats won the first game, 7-0, and the second, 9-0.
Left-handed senior Sean Cooper picked up his fifth win of the year in the first contest, working six innings, allowing just three hits, and striking out four.
Senior left fielder Brendan Moore went 3-for-4 with a run batted in (RBI), and first baseman Jack Butzu, a fellow senior, added two hits.
Sophomore Owen Schihl, a righty, won the second game, striking out eight Gabriel Richard hitters over six innings.
Offensively, Cooper, playing first base in this one, senior third baseman Nolan Kutchey, senior designated hitter Joe Roeher, and junior catcher Gavin Walters each tallied two hits, and the latter two both drove in two runs.
On May 25, Oxford returned home for another doubleheader, this one against the Flint Metro League’s (FML) Brandon Blackhawks.
In the first game, a 4-2 score, Kutchey registered his eighth win by throwing a 10-strikeout complete game, and junior shortstop Tony Hatzigeorgiou launched his third home run.
Pitching was also the story in the second Brandon game, a 13-0 final, as Walters threw a five-inning no-hitter, his first at the high school level, finishing with nine punchouts. The junior needed just 71 pitches, throwing 45 of them for strikes.
The win was Walters’ fourth of the season and he has now struck out 52 hitters, tying him with Kutchey for the second-most on the team, trailing only Cooper’s 58.
Junior right fielder Eddie Bieniasz hit his first home run in the second Blackhawk game, making him one of five Wildcats with a round tripper in 2021.
To complete their week, Oxford welcomed in the Oakland Christian Lancers, who belong to the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference (MIAC), for two games on May 29.
Winning the two tilts by scores of 10-0 and 8-4, respectively, Cooper earned his sixth win of the season, and second of the week, in the first, overpowering Lancer hitters to the tune of nine strikeouts in six innings of one-hit baseball.
Roeher went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI and senior second baseman Josh Brown registered two hits in as many at-bats and drove in a run.
Junior Marcus Vizzaccaro, called up from the junior varsity team for the stretch run, scored Hatzigeorgiou and senior Gavin Marsden on a single in his first plate appearance of the year in the sixth.
Kutchey was the winning pitcher in the second game, working all seven frames and surrendering just a lone earned run. He struck out seven and walked three.
Senior shortstop Ethan Burdua and Hatzigeorgiou, who was the second baseman in this one, both collected multiple hits.
The Wildcats can play one more regular season game, as the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) maximum number of pre-playoff contests is 38.
Postseason play will begin for Oxford on Saturday, as the Wildcats will face either the Davison Cardinals or Clarkston Wolves in an MHSAA District No. 31 semifinal at Lapeer High School at 11 a.m.
Davison and Clarkston squared off in a quarterfinal on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
The Lake Orion Dragons and host Lightning will tangle in the other semifinal, set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the two winners battling for the district championship later that day, at approximately 4 p.m.
Through the program’s first 37 games, Hatzigeorgiou leads the club in batting average at .441 (34-for-77), while Burdua has racked up a team-high 40 hits in 100 at-bats, good for a .400 mark.
Moore has had a terrific season, too, hitting .371 (36-for-97) with four doubles and 28 RBI, the second-most on the team, behind only Hatzigeorgiou’s 30.
On the mound, Kutchey has pitched in 12 games, starting 10, posting a 9-0 record and 1.31 earned run average (ERA) in 64 innings.
Cooper and Schihl are tied for the lowest ERA on the team at 0.94. Cooper is 6-1 in 44.1 innings, while Schihl is 4-1 in 22.1 frames.
Milestone for Coach Dave Herrick
The second win over Brandon on May 25, the game in which Walters threw his no-hitter, was also head coach Dave Herrick’s 100th win at the helm of the program.
Beginning his tenure in 2015, this is Herrick’s seventh season as head coach. With the 2020 season being canceled by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and now standing at 102 wins at the time of this article’s publication, he is averaging 17 wins per season in his six years of game action.