WARREN — “What are you doing here?”
My mother raised me better than that, but I was surprised to see Chris Sabo behind the backstop for the first game of the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and De La Salle doubleheader Saturday.
Sabo is one of 31 CHSL baseball players who made it to the majors. He was an All State third baseman at then-Redford Catholic Central (Class of 1980, where he also played golf and hockey), All American at Michigan, 1988 National League Rookie of the Year, three-time All Star in a nine-year pro career, seven with the Cincinnati Reds, the 1990 World Champions.
“I’m making history now,” he says.
Sabo, 57, signed on last October to coach baseball at the University of Akron — except Akron hasn’t fielded a baseball team since 2015, when the sport was dropped for budgetary reasons.
That’s where the “history” comes in. The university has reinstated baseball for the 2020 season. “It’s never been done where a Division 1 school drops a sport and then revives it,” Sabo says.
Appropriately, Akron’s nickname is the Zips, and that’s what Sabo’s been doing, hustling here and there assembling a roster for fall practice. He has 26 players committed, and would like about 10 more.
Reared in the Rosedale Park neighborhood on Detroit’s west side, Sabo says the last time he was in Michigan was 2008 when he was inducted into the CC Hall of Fame. “But I’ll be back in September for the reunion of the 1979 Shamrocks state champs.”
His mission for this visit was to take a look at a pair of St. Mary’s players, pitcher Anthony Fett and outfielder Grant Henson, both juniors.
The lanky 6-foot-3 Fett put on an impressive performance, going the distance, limiting the Pilots to one run and two hits (all in the second inning), striking out eight and walking three.
Fett’s pitches hit as high as 83-84 mph on Sabo’s radar gun.
“I like two things about him,” Sabo says: “He’s left-handed and he throws strikes.”
Henson walked twice in four at-bats.
Eventually, Sabo will talk to the players about their interest in playing for Akron, a Division 1 school and member of the Mid-American Conference.
Fett’s counterpart on the De La Salle mound had a rough outing. Senior righthander Cole Agemy came in the game with a credible 2.06 ERA, but his control deserted him.
He lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out seven, but walked eight batters, seven of whom scored. St. Mary’s jumped out to a 10-1 lead after three innings, eventually winning 12-1. Reliever Anthony Stull quieted the Eaglets’ bats the rest of the way.
Sophomore second baseman Alex Mooney paced St. Mary’s offense with three doubles good for six runs. Freshman Jake Dresselhouse smacked a two-run homer.
Agemy will be going to Central Michigan. “It was just one of those days,” shrugged his father, Jim, a Dearborn Divine Child alumnus and an All American pitcher at Michigan, where he was just the second hurler in Wolverine history to rack up a 10-0 season record.
The Eaglets swept the twinbill, 3-2, in the second game, but not without a lot of trepidation.
St. Mary’s broke a scoreless game in the third inning, taking a 1-0 lead via four walks, the last one to Henson.
They got to sophomore righty Brett Stanley for two runs in the fifth. Freshman Jack Crighton and Henson cracked back-to-back doubles. Henson advanced to third on a single by Cole Sibley, and scampered home on a safety squeeze bunt executed beautifully down the first base line by Jack Mooney.
The way freshman Brock Porter was dominating the Pilots’ lineup, the three-run margin appeared to be a safe bet for the Eaglets heading into De La Salle’s last at-bat in the seventh inning.
To that point, Porter had given up a pair of singles and struck out 10 batters. Only two runners got as far as second base.
With one out, Joseph Pierce, whom Porter had whiffed twice, doubled. Jacob Gumieny, likewise a two strikeout victim, singled. Pierce stopped at third.
St. Mary’s coach Matt Petry called on senior Dillon Kark to put down the Pilots’ uprising.
Kark walked the first batter he faced and struck out the second to leave the bases loaded with two outs.
Senior shortstop Nick Severyn singled sharply to left field, driving in two runs.
With the tying and winning runs on base, junior first baseman Gabe Kirck hit a towering fly ball to deep left center that Henson caught just short of the fence.
The race for who makes it to the Central Division championship game May 24 at Comerica Park is anybody’s guess at the moment.
Just one game separates the top four teams: Catholic Central and St. Mary’s at 8-6 each, Detroit U-D Jesuit 8-5 and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 7-7.
Playing a spoiler’s role, and maybe getting into the top four, are De La Salle with a 4-7 record and Divine Child at 2-6.
Contact Don Horkey at firstname.lastname@example.org.