L to R: Josh Birnberg, Andre Landau (left), Ari Klinger and Jacob Mills take a walk.
L to R: Josh Birnberg, Andre Landau (left), Ari Klinger and Jacob Mills take a walk.

Coach Josh Birnberg’s West Bloomfield High School baseball team is one of the best in the state.

Josh Birnberg is the coach of a state-ranked high school baseball team.

“We’re good, and I think people respect us for what we did last year,” he said.

What West Bloomfield did last year was finish 32-8. The Lakers won the championship of the Oakland Activities Association White Division with a 10-2 record and were beaten by eventual Division 1 champion and national power Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the district finals.

It was West Bloomfield’s first league title since 2015. Before that, the Lakers hadn’t won a league championship since 1998.

West Bloomfield is ranked No. 8 in Division 1 in the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association’s most recent poll. St. Mary’s is No. 1.

The Lakers are No. 12 in Prep Baseball Report’s top 25 statewide power rankings (No. 9 in Division 1), and No. 17 in SBLive’s top 25 statewide power rankings.

West Bloomfield has moved into the OAA Red Division — arguably the toughest division for baseball in the OAA — joining Clarkston, Lake Orion, Oxford, Rochester, Rochester Adams and Rochester Hills Stony Creek. Adams is ranked No. 9 in Division 1 by the Coaches Association.

“I’m looking forward to playing in that division,” Birnberg said. “There will be great competition during the season, and it will prepare us for the state playoffs. It’s a win/win for us.”

West Bloomfield was 12-3 including 3-2 in the OAA Red as of last week, losing twice to Adams.

In addition to the Jewish coach, there are five Jewish players on the West Bloomfield roster. They are senior catcher Jacob Mills, senior utility player/pitcher Quinn Lewis, junior catcher Max Gross and junior pitchers Ari Klinger and Andre Landau.

Max Gross
Max Gross Max Gross

Of the five, Gross probably will see the most action this season. This is his second year on the team.

Right now, he’s splitting time behind the plate and getting an occasional at-bat as he recovers from a compound dislocation of his right pinkie finger.

He suffered the injury in late February playing basketball with friends.

“I can’t completely close my hand,” he said.

Gross said West Bloomfield is a talented baseball team.

“We’re strong 1-9 in our lineup. We have a bunch of guys who are going to play baseball in college,” he said, including senior catcher Zack Matthews, who is headed to Concordia University.

Gross wants to play college baseball.

He loves being a catcher.

Max Gross sets up behind the plate.
Max Gross sets up behind the plate. Gary Klinger

“You’re always doing something out there during a game,” he said. “You always have an impact on what’s happening. I enjoy that.”

Gross, 17, is the son of cantor Dan Gross of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills. He’s the oldest of Dan and Lauren Gross’ four children. His siblings are Zev, 12, Zosia, 11, and Bram, 9. The family lives in West Bloomfield.

This is Birnberg’s fourth year in charge of the Lakers. His first season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All we had that year were tryouts,” he said.

West Bloomfield went 25-15 in Birnberg’s first actual season and finished in a three-way tie for second place in the OAA White with a 9-6 record.

“It’s been fun coaching,” he said. “Of course, the more winning you do, the more fun it is.”

Birnberg is a former West Bloomfield baseball player. He was the starting shortstop for four years, including the 2014 team that upset Birmingham Brother Rice in the districts and advanced to the regional finals.

One year after he graduated, the Lakers ended their league championship drought.

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