West Bloomfield baseball coach Josh Birnberg (center), with district semifinal game walkoff heroes Logan Pikur (left) and Garrett Kerr. Pikur had the winning hit and Kerr was the winning pitcher, throwing a complete game.
West Bloomfield baseball coach Josh Birnberg (center), with district semifinal game walkoff heroes Logan Pikur (left) and Garrett Kerr. Pikur had the winning hit and Kerr was the winning pitcher, throwing a complete game. (Lori Kerr)

Each team rode an emotional roller-coaster in the postseason.

Walkoffs and heartbreaks.

That was the end-of-the-season story for the West Bloomfield High School and Frankel Jewish Academy baseball teams, which were led by first-year coaches Josh Birnberg and Joe Bernstein.

Each team rode an emotional roller-coaster in the postseason.

West Bloomfield stunned Birmingham Seaholm 4-3 on June 5 in a Division 1 district semifinal game at Warrior Park in Troy on an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning.

But the Lakers lost 8-3 to powerhouse Birmingham Brother Rice in the district championship game, falling victim to one bad inning.

Frankel played just one postseason game, but it felt like a doubleheader. The Jaguars lost 5-4 in 11 innings to Southfield Christian on June 4 in a Division 4 district semifinal at Auburn Hills Oakland Christian.

The losses hurt the Lakers and Jaguars, but only momentarily. There was much for them to celebrate a year after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out their seasons.

Both Birnberg, a former West Bloomfield baseball star, and Bernstein were supposed to have their first season as coach in 2020. COVID-19 took care of that.

“This season went quickly, but I really enjoyed it. We had a fun group,” Birnberg said. “We started out as a bunch of guys on a team, and it turned into a family.

“I had no idea what to expect from our team and the teams on our schedule we played because nobody played last spring.

“We ended up winning 25 games. It was the first time the team has won 25 games in a long time. We won 24 games when we made it to the Sweet 16 (in 2014) when I was a senior.”

The Lakers finished 25-15, 9-6 in the OAA White Division this season, good for a second-place tie with Birmingham Groves and North Farmington behind division champion Farmington (12-3).

West Bloomfield led Seaholm 3-0 in the district semifinal, but the Maples tied the game with a run in the fifth inning and two more runs in the sixth.

A nine-pitch walk drawn by West Bloomfield’s Brayden Daulton followed by a first-pitch double by Logan Pikur off Seaholm ace Jimmy Love, a Wayne State University recruit, in the seventh launched a noisy celebration by the Lakers after courtesy runner Jamar Respress crossed the plate.

West Bloomfield led Brother Rice 3-2 in the top of the fifth, but the Warriors scored six runs after the first batter was retired.

“It happened so quickly. I looked up, and they were ahead 8-3,” Birnberg said.

Bernstein said he met with his Frankel team the day before the Southfield Christian game and urged the players to “cherish the moment and leave it all on the field. After that happened last year, we can’t take anything for granted.”

The Jaguars listened to their coach. They battled Southfield Christian to the very end of the nearly four-hour game, losing when the Eagles pushed across a run in the bottom of the 11th inning.

“Our guys were incredibly competitive. They never quit,” Bernstein said.

Nobody led the game by more than one run. Frankel rallied from three one-run deficits and led briefly 4-3 in the top of the ninth.

There were some courageous efforts by the Jaguars during the marathon.

Frankel’s Ethan Gray caught all 11 innings in his first game behind the plate all season. He was hampered for most of the year by a thumb injury.

Adam Levitt wouldn’t have played last season because of a separated left shoulder. He suffered another separation to the same shoulder prior to this season and missed much of the year.

Given a chance to bat against Southfield Christian, the senior who is headed to Purdue University blasted a triple to lead the fifth inning. Ari Michaels ran for Levitt, and he scored on a single by Ryan Schmeltz to tie the game 2-2.

“Adam came to every one of our practices and games this year,” Bernstein said. “That’s what high school sports are all about.”

Benji Schmeltz threw about 100 pitches in the game for Frankel. His brother Ryan Schmeltz threw about 80 pitches.

Ethan Baker (.424) and Ryan Schmeltz (.406) were Frankel’s leading hitters for the season. Benji Schmeltz had a team-leading 16 RBI and Daniel Bernstein, the coach’s son, drove in 13 runs for the Jaguars (4-6).

Daniel Bernstein filled in at first base all year because of injuries.