Who doesn't love the post-season? Well, like, love it, or not, its here for the 09', getting started with pre-district games (aka district quarterfinals) on Tuesday in baseball and softball. I for one am jacked for the playoff fever that strikes the local prep scene this time every year. Alright, here's a peek at what I think all u high school sports junkies should look for this week and beyond as the race for Battle Creek begins in less than 24 hours.
In baseball, Brother Rice, Avondale, and Southfield Christian appear to have the easiest road to next week's regionals. After a blazing start to the year, the defending state champion Brother Rice Warriors have limped to the finish line, however, if they can avoid a slip up against up-start Birmingham Groves and Birmingham Seaholm (which in my opinion has the best shot of pulling the upset) squads, they should advance through the Southfield-Lathrup district. If a hot hitting Avondale team, led by the likes of seasoned veteran athletes like Steve Bohne, Adam Purcilly, Brian Portelli, and Donovam Rigel, brings i ts "A" game in the district its hostings, the Yellowjackets will almost certainly repeat as district champs. Small school sluggers Steve Thrasher and Aaron Ball and Southfield Christian, playing in a relatively soft Novi Franklin Road Christian district in Division IV, should be able to avenge last season's upset loss at the hands of Royal Oak Shrine and move on.
In softball, Lakeland and Troy, the thoroughbreds of the area's prep softball world, are both looking real good coming into the state tournament. Lakeland, regional champs the past four seasons and state finalists in '06 and '07, will need to get past a tough-as-nails Walled Lake Central team in hostile territory - since the Vikings are hosting the district - in the semi-final, but if they do it should be free-sailing from there until the regionals. Troy has to defeat crosstown rival and upset minded Troy Athens in Tuesday's pre-district, just to get into play on Saturday. I see the Colts and ace hurler Jordan Wheatley edging past the Red Hawks and then devouring the rest of the competition in the Utica district.
Baseball - The Andover district is a hodgepodge of public and private school teams who are all competitive. Cranbrook, led by Stephen Peck and Adam Rosenberg, and Orchard Lk. St. Mary's, headlined by UofM recruit Korey Hall, have to be the favorites. But don't scoff at the host Barons and head coach and master-tactician Dan Smith or a so lid-Notre Dame Prep squad, who both have the opportunity to play spoiler. The Walled Lake Central district isnt far behind with all the Walled Lake Schools, powerhouse Lakeland and a gritty Catholic Central team all fighting it out for the title.
Softball - The North Farmington district pits a number of schools who could all emerge victorious by the end of Saturday afternoon. Yet, if I was forced to chose one team, i would say the host Raiders will nudge past Mercy, Farmington, Harrison, Northville, and Novi to win its own district.
Baseball - Seaholm and ace Tyler Haggerson could end up catching Brother Rice on a bad day in Saturday's final and shocking the state. Clarkston, who has been down but has some talent, could give the competition some fits in the Hartland district. I love Clawson in Division III in the Bishop Foley district and beyond and I could see Walled Lake central getting hot on its own field and upsetting Lakeland in the semi-final.
Softball - I think Troy Athens and Rochester Adams could both be a Cinderella story this week. Athens has the intra-city motivation going up against the juggernaut Colts and Adams matches up well with Oxford-district favorite Lake Orion.