Orchard Lake St. Mary's Passes Homer for State's Record Winning Streak

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 17, 2023

It initially might be an absurd notion, but this year’s Orchard Lake St. Mary’s baseball team was able to enter this season with a legitimate chip on its collective shoulder.

Greater DetroitYes, the Eaglets began practice last month having won three straight MHSAA Finals championships (Division 2 titles in 2019 and 2021 and the Division 1 title last year surrounding the canceled 2020 season) and set a state record for wins in a season last year in finishing 44-0.

But the Eaglets graduated some unreal talent from that squad, including four players contributing to Division I college baseball programs this spring (Jack Crighton at Clemson, Ike Irish at Auburn, Nolan Schubert at Oklahoma State and Jake Dresselhouse at Michigan State) and another in pitcher Brock Porter, a top prospect in the Texas Rangers farm system after being taking in the fourth round of last summer’s MLB Draft and inking for signing bonus of $3.7 million.

So going into this year, there was a definite hunger and drive for the returning players to show the rest of the state there wouldn’t be any letup in the program despite the roster attrition.

“We have a lot of new guys who didn’t get an opportunity really last year because of how good our roster was,” said senior second baseman Ryan McKay, a co-captain who has committed to play at Michigan State. “But now they are filling in their shoes amazingly. There are a lot of names people don’t know, and those are the guys helping us win these games.”

Proof of St. Mary’s still excelling and simply reloading certainly came over the weekend in Ohio.

With a win over Grove City in suburban Columbus on Saturday, the Eaglets won their 76th straight game, breaking the state’s all-time record consecutive victories set by Homer during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

St. Mary’s (11-0) then added a win over Milford (Ohio) to make it 77 wins a row, and is now 12 shy of tying the national record of 89 set by Portsmouth (N.H.) High School in 2012.

Given it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the streak and attention that’s coming with it, breaking the state record made for a festive bus ride home from Ohio on Saturday.

“The thing about it is their commitment to it and to get up for every single game over the course of three seasons,” St. Mary’s head coach Matt Petry said. “That says a lot about our players, how well prepared they are and how serious they take the game. That’s not easy to get up for every single game. Especially knowing you are going to get everyone’s best efforts because they want to be the ones who break the streak.”

There were some close calls en route to this weekend’s accomplishment.

St. Mary’s earned a 5-4 win over Howell on March 26, a 1-0 win over Detroit Catholic Central on March 30, and then a 1-0 win in nine innings last Wednesday against Walsh Jesuit in Ohio.

“There have been close games, but if you want to go far in sports, you have to love those big games,” McKay said. “The nerves are coming, but at the same time, you love it.”

Last year’s seniors were well-known across the state before the season even began. But even after their graduation, there remains loads of talent on the St. Mary’s roster and plenty of time for this group to create similar buzz.

In addition to McKay and top pitcher Aidan Donovan heading to Michigan State, senior shortstop Blake Grimmer is committed to Tennessee, senior SS/P Jasen Oliver is committed to Indiana, and junior Parker Brzustewicz has committed to Notre Dame to headline another roster full of future college players.

Now, the hard part will be continuing to stay focused amidst attention that will undoubtedly increase as the Eaglets pursue the national record.

Fortunately, it won’t be hard for St. Mary’s to get up for its next action Wednesday because it is hosting archrival Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice for a doubleheader.

Odds are St. Mary’s will lose a game at some point. But until then, it will bask in the glow of a ride never seen before in state history.

“It’s definitely in the back of our minds,” McKay said. “But every game we just go out with the same idea, plan and basically play baseball at the end of the day.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTO Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Ciaran Caughey (12) welcomes Jake Dresselhouse after the latter scored during last season’s Semifinal win over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern.

For Coach: Powers Completes 1st Title Run for 42-Year Leader Dutkowski

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING — On behalf of this current Flint Powers Catholic baseball team, Saturday’s message was loud and clear to past players, alumni and school officials:

We finally did it for Tom. 

Tom would be longtime head coach Tom Dutkowski, who after 42 years and 872 wins finally got to coach in a state championship game Saturday. 

Not only did Powers get there for Dutkowski, but the Chargers delivered win No. 873 and his long-awaited first title as coach with an 11-0 defeat of Spring Lake in the Division 2 Final at McLane Stadium. 

“We just made Flint Powers history, and to be a part of that is amazing,” Powers senior Fischer Hendershot said. “We have a lot of alumni and a lot of alumni on the coaching staff. To do it for the coaching staff, everyone here, everyone in Powers, every alumni and everyone who cares about us is a great feeling.” 

The Chargers’ Fischer Hendershot delivers a pitch.After accepting the championship trophy and raising into the air triumphantly, Dutkowski reflected on the journey and long wait.

It was the third title for Powers baseball, joining the 1974 and 1980 championships. Dutkowski was an assistant on the 1980 team. 

“I played in ’73 here, and my joke for that was that I taught the ’74 guys everything they knew and then they won a state championship the next year,” Dutkowski said. “We won it in ’80 with just a gritty team. My third year as a head coach we got to the final four in Class A, and I figured this was going to happen every three years. And then it was a 39-year drought in terms of that.”

The game ended after five innings via the run differential rule and capped off a fairly dominant season for Powers — or at least as dominant as a baseball team can be for a season.

The Chargers finished 37-6 and outscored opponents by a combined 57-13 during the MHSAA Tournament.

The only close call during the playoffs came in Friday’s Semifinal, when Powers blew a 3-0 lead to Trenton before prevailing in the bottom of the eighth inning, 4-3, on a walk-off single by senior Gavin Darling. 

“These guys, they never flinched and they never wavered,” Dutkowski said. “They developed into being a great team, not just individual talent.”

Powers wasted no time against Spring Lake, taking a 2-0 lead with one out in the top of the first inning on a two-run double to the gap in left-center by Darling. After a ground out, Darling scored on a Spring Lake throwing error to give Powers a 3-0 lead. 

Powers added another run in the second inning on a bases-loaded walk to make it 4-0. 

Teammates congratulate Michael Klein (6) as he returns to the dugout.In the third, Powers scored four runs to take an 8-0 lead on an RBI single by Hendershot, a walk with the bases loaded and a two-run single by freshman Connor Kelly. 

Powers then put three more runs on the board in the fourth inning to take an 11-0 lead. 

Hendershot was the winner on the mound, allowing two hits and striking out five in five innings of work. 

Spring Lake also was attempting to win its first Finals title, but had to settle for its third runner-up finish (to go with those from 1995 and 1978). 

The Lakers finished 32-10. 

“They are a good team, and this was their year,” Spring Lake head coach Bill Core said. “We just couldn’t keep them off of the bases, and our pitching wasn’t as sharp as it’s been. We gave them a couple of free passes, and they mixed in some good hitting. That’s a good team, and that’s why they’ve been ranked No. 1 in the state all year.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Flint Powers Catholic raises its championship trophy to complete the 2024 baseball season Saturday evening at McLane Stadium. (Middle) The Chargers’ Fischer Hendershot delivers a pitch. (Below) Teammates congratulate Michael Klein (6) as he returns to the dugout.