BIRMINGHAM – Last December brought more than Christmas presents to Birmingham Brother Rice junior baseball star Ty Kiafoulis’ doorstep.
It also brought the University of Michigan calling.
After seeing Kiafoulis, a heavy-slugging 6-foot-5 outfielder, at an offseason showcase camp around the holidays, the Wolverines set their sights on nabbing him for their 2014 recruiting class.
Late last month, they got their man.
Kiafoulis committed to play his college ball in the Big 10 at Michigan in March, making him the second Brother Rice diamond stud to earn a Division I scholarship since the fall and the third prepster in Oakland County to commit to the Wolverines baseball program since the summer.
“Getting the decision taken care of this early is exciting and takes a lot of pressure off for the next two years,” said Kiafoulis of accepting his offer from the Wolverines. “Michigan is a great school with a great tradition and the baseball team is on the way up, so to be a part of all that is an awesome feeling and something I’m extremely looking forward to.”
In Brother Rice’s season-opening doubleheader sweep of Grosse Pointe North on Tuesday, Kiafoulis showed off his power and quick bat, clubbing three hits and four RBI in the set of wins, highlighted by a towering three-run homer in the first game of the day.
His head coach Bob Riker is fast to compliment his rising batsmen and his college selection.
“Ty has big-time potential, we’re talking a very high ceiling with the kind of player he could end up becoming,” Riker said. “He’s a natural hitter with pop in his bat and a good eye at the plate. I think it’s a great fit for both of them. They’re (Michigan) fortunate to get his commitment.”
Riker’s squad is chalk-full of intriguing college prospects, all of them logging varsity innings from the time they were freshmen. Kiafoulis is part of a junior contingent that came screaming onto the local prep diamond scene in 2011 and have helped Brother Rice capture back-to-back district titles and last season’s Catholic League crown.
Matt Ruppenthal, the team’s junior ace has been committed to Vanderbilt for almost two years now. Josh Smith, the Warriors’ sophomore lefty hurler, committed to Kentucky in the final week of October. Several more players on Brother Rice’s roster will sign with colleges before next year, a number of which will be headed to the Division I level.
“We’ve got high expectations for ourselves,” said Kiafoulis of him and his teammates. “My class wants to go out state champions and we’ve got two seasons now to get that done. It’s going to be a challenge, but I know we’re going to be up for it.”
The last time Brother Rice won a state title on the baseball field was five years ago in 2008. Back in November, Kiafoulis was a tight end and defensive end on the Warriors' state-championship football team.
Michigan is currently 12-14 in the 2013 baseball campaign and in addition to Kiafoulis has gained the future services of area prep standouts Johnny Slater (CF-SS) of Southfield-Lathrup and Grant Reuss (P) of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in recent months.
The Wolverines carry two players who prepped in the county on their roster this spring; freshman Jake Balicki (Birmingham Groves) and sophomore Zack Zott (Lake Orion)
Scott M. Burnstein covers prep sports and college recruiting for The Oakland Press. Email him at Hoosierscott@aol.com and follow him @Burneystweets