Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April Rankings - Boys Baseball

Top 10 Prep Baseball Teams Oakland County:

1. Birmingham Brother Rice (14-3) - Despite a few recent losses, the Warriors remain the class of prep baseball in the area (not to mention the state).

2. Rochester Hills Adams (12-1) - Everybody knows about ace hurler, Andrew Waszak, but the Highlanders offense can shred with the best of them - Kyle Casadei, Nick Druzinski, T.J. Trouba are all viable threats to do damage any time they hit the batter's box - and that's what makes them so dangerous

3. Walled Lake Western (13-1) - The Warriors display a warrior-like mentality on the diamond

4. Auburn Hills Avondale (11-3) - Veteran ball players like Adam Purcilly, Brian Portelli, Steve Bohne, and Donovan Rigel - all four with more than three years of varsity experience apiece - could take the Yellow Jackets far this year.

5. Rochester (6-3) - Sophomore hurler Nick Bradley is one of the best underclassmen pitching prospects in the state.

6. Lakeland (10-4) - Pound-for-pound, the Eagles' Michigan-bound Ricky Samue is the best hitter in the county.

7. Birmingham Detroit Country Day (6-3) - The combination of fireballer Mike Theodore and sluggers like Ben Nielson, and Kevin Conway could result in another long tournament run for DCD and longtime head coach Frank Orlando, who recently added his umpteenth state title as the coach of the Yellowjackets girls hoops squads.

8. Novi Detroit Catholic Central (8-4) - So far, so good for the Shamrocks - hanging tough in probably the toughest league in the entire state of Michigan.

9. Birmingham Groves (7-3) - Jim Crosby and his bunch of diamond cutters are at it again!

10 - a . Farmington Hills Harrison (8-5) - Justin Young is a bonafide ace on the bump for the up and coming Hawks, who could end up surprising a lot of people by season's end

10 - b. Walled Lake Central (10-5) - A boat load of baseball talent resides in Walled Lake this year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2009 Diamond Forecast

Over the past few seasons, Oakland County has re-emerged as a hot bed for local baseball talent. Its been such a treat to witness this recent groundswell of prep skill and accomplished on the baseball diamond and I hope all you high school sports fiends have taken notice. The last two Division I state champs have came out of the OC - county powers Lake Orion and Farmington squared off in the 2007 final and last year the OC had two representatives in the Division I final four.  This new era of diamond gems has a good shot at eventually being compared to the county's roster of all-time greats, the majority of which played in the area back in the 1960's and 70's and include the likes of former MLB All-Stars Kirk Gibson (Waterford Kettering), Bob Welch (Hazel Park), Steve Howe (Clarkston), and Ted Simmons (Southfield). Lets take a look at what will be going down in 2009!

The best of the best, both in terms of elite teams and players reside on Lahser Road between 14 and 15 Mile Road at Birmingham Brother Rice. The defending Division I state champion Warriors are a surefire force to be reckoned with on both the state and national level, returning eight of nine starters from 2008. And its only natural that the best player in the state of Michigan should come from its best team and that is definitely the case this year with mega-prospect Matt Conway, a 6-6 left handed power hitting phenom who has signed to play ball next season at Wake Forest in the ultra-competitive ACC and will probably be drafted by the majors in June. Conway, also the team's number one pitcher, is a blue chipper all the way, with a lethal, yet still silky smooth swing at the plate and a modest demeanor that carries over to his teammates. Augmenting the Warriors' big clipper is a stellar cast of veteran ball players that will make it difficult for Rice to not be playing for another state title in Battle Creek in a little under two months. Derek Kilmer and Brian Kurazawa are able arms to back Conway up on the mound and Alex Charles, Steve Hodgins, and Pat MacKenzie have the heavy bats to keep opposing pitchers always on their toes. I have the sneaking suspicion that Rice is on the fast track to pulling off the much-daunting repeat.

The Rest of the Best:

Rochester Hills Adams  - MSU recruit Andrew Waszak is arguably the best hurler in the county. Dominating velocity and killer change of speed pitches make Waszak, the number one in the state ranked Highlanders football team last fall, a bona fide ace. Underclassmen, Nick Druzinski, Kyle Casadei, and T.J. Trouba dot the Adams batting line-up and can all shred at the plate, each having the ability to hit for power and average.

Troy - Lost three starters from last years final four team, but the Colts are still for real and once head coach Frank De Vito gets his troops acclimated, they are sure to make some noise. Top pitcher James Andrezjewski and hard hitting Chris Gebara pace the Troy attack.

Lakeland - Ricky Samuel could be the best player in the county not named Matt Conway. Heading to play at Uof M next year, Samuel has an eye in the box like few other the area has seen in quite some time. All-purpose Eagle athletes Brett Burmeister and Blake Heiman, are 3-year varsity players that want to go out on top in their senior years, after falling to Rice in blow out fashion in the 2008 regionals.

Burney's Other Top Players:

Mike Theodore, DCD - this Yellowjackets speedballer is one of the best pitchers in the state and proved it by accepting a scholarship to play in the SCC next year at Tennessee.

Korey Hall, Orchard Lake St. Mary - lightening fast outfielder who blazes on the base paths and hits a ton

Andy Tinkey, Walled Lake Northern - One of the great young arms in the state, descending on the MSU program next year with fellow OC ace Waszak.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bonus Bytes - Part II

I wanna start off by acknowledging a mistake in my post season awards. Somehow county scoring machine and Novi's Mr. Do-Everything Chris Bellamy's name was accidentally omitted from the selection list.  The fact of the matter is Bellamy was the captain of my first team all-county team and how it got reported otherwise is my bad all the way. Any followers of this blog know how much I love Chris B's game, having profiled him in a blog entry just a few months back, and Chris B himself must know Burney meant him no disrespect. Anyway, props to Chris for such great senior seasons on both the football field and the bball hardwood and for completing a varsity career that certainly qualifies as legendary in the annals of Wildcats prep history.

One more note about a former blog entry - last time i ranted about how I would welcome back the oakland county high school 3-point shootout and slam dunk contest, an event that used to be an exciting and fulfilling way to send off the just-concluded hoops season. Well, I forgot to give my prediction for what might have happened if there had been a 3-point shoot out and slam dunk contest after the '09 season.  Here goes: I would say the dunk contest would have come down to Madison Heights Madison's under-rated and highflying Ryan Aaron and Birmingham Detroit Country Day's human pogo stick, "Boom Boom" Benny Fowler. Both Aaron and Fowler, a MSU football recruit at wide receiver, are aerial craftsman and I'm certain they would have eac h put on one heckuva show.  My pick though would be Fowler, who I'm sure would have easily wowed the crowd with his catalogue of rim-rattling slams and trademark showmanship.

In terms of a 3-point contest, I see it developing into an old fashioned "shootout at the OK Corral" between Clarkston sniper Brandon Pokley and Country Day's marksman Jordan Dumars, two of the best outside gunners this county has seen in quite some time. If both brought their "a" games, I would go with Pokely, who's chances are helped by the grit and mental toughness he has displayed over his 4 year varsity career, which gives me the hunch he would go bananas with the "money balls" and eek a close one past Jordan D.

Speaking of Wolves Nation, props to Clarkston's girls soccer team and head coach Sarah Wasilk - wife of Clarkston hoops great and current girls bball coach Timmy Wasilk - for getting the proverbial monkey of their backs on Tuesday night with the team's first victory of the season, a 1-0 defeat of a previously-unbeaten Birmingham Seaholm squad. The Lady Wolves played hard and fast in treacherous and rainy conditions, sealing the triumph when senior forward Alex Rodabauch converted a spirited-mix in the box into the winning goal late in the first half. Goalkeeper Demarre Wells picked up the first shutout of her career. Chances to improve vastly on last year's dismal one win total, appear high. Way to go Blue and Gold!    

Love the baseball talent in the county this year - Conway, Tinke, Waszak, Theodore, Hall, Samuel. There's just so much of it and its all so versatile. Can't wait until June and thick of the conference races. Watch out for the Burney's Bytes diamond preview coming in just a few short days (by the end of the weekend)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bring 'Em Back

Before I completely shift gears into spring sports mode, let me leave you with one final thought on the prep basketball season. Some of you probably don't remember, but back in the day, Oakland County used to have a 3-point shooting and slam dunk contest at the conclusion of every season. I say, lets bring 'em back. It used to be an awesome event that brought together all of the area's top hoopsters for a night of fun and excitement. High-flying, rim-rattling air shows and skilled sniper displays were the status quo back in the 1990's when I attended the majority of them. I even participated in one. I shot in the 1995 OC 3-point shootout and missed the cut off for the second round by one make - i hit nine in 90 seconds and the cut off was 10. That finally miss before the first round buzzer still haunts me to this Memories of NBA'r Shane Battier's "cartwheel" jam in '95, NFL'r David Bowens' thunderous tomahawk in the '94 dunk final that took home the crown, and Walled Lake Central's Adam McCarthy breaking the record for makes in the '93 3-point contest by swishing virtually all 26 of his long distance connections, stand out in my mind some fifteen years later.

So, lets talk about getting it back up and running for 2010. The Oakland Press used to sponsor it and I'm going to do everything in my power to re-charge interest in the idea at the paper from my end. If you're an Oakland County prep hoop feign who plays on your school's varsity squad a nd are interested in getting something like this organized for next year, let your voice be heard - call, write oak press sports editor Jeff Kuehn, bother your coaches and athletic directors to bring the idea up at their conference meetings. You guys could be the difference!!

The county's once beloved slam dunk and 3-point contest live, if at least only in my found recollections and on this blog!  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Waszak the Wonderful

Well, I got my first taste of the spring sports scene last week by getting the delight of watching Rochester Hills Adams ace Andrew Waszak pitch against a solid Auburn Hills Avondale squad. And boy did he deliver the goods. Like a great magician, Waszak put a spell on opposing batters by overwhelming them with his velocity and then killing them softly with his mid-range arsenal. Only giving up one hit and one walk and striking out 12, the Michigan State-bound hurler was on the mark all game long in his team's 6-3 win. The most intriguing things about Waszak is his command and composure on the mound for a player at such a young age. He doesn't get flustered and he is always jumping in front of hitters, making them easy pickings for k's. This kid can do some damage at the plate as well. Last Thursday in a double header sweep of Clarkston, he went 6-9 with 9 RBI and his first home run of the season, a monster blast in the fourth inning of the opener. Adams, as a team, has an interesting blend of experienced seniors - Waszak, Mike Barber, Andy Moss - and a lot of solid underclassmen - Nick Druziniski, Kyle Casadei, - and the Highlanders and head coach Chuck Van Robays, an Adams Diamond legend himself back in the mid-1990's, are looking to improve on last season's 19-17 record. Off to a 3-0 start and with Wasak the Wonderful already at mid-season form a week into the schedule, chances to do just that appear very good.