For two Academy middle schoolers, their summer of baseball was one to remember forever.
For Grosse Pointe Academy’s Jarren Purify and Reggie Sharpe, the loss in Williamsport, Pa., on Aug. 22 in the Little League World Series to the Southeast Region champion was very disappointing.
However, the GPA middle schoolers and their teammates on the Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores squad accomplished much more than three previous GPWS appearances in the series that netted only one consolation game victory for the club.
And this year’s LLWS campaign was an exciting one, to boot.
Woods-Shores won four tournament games — two before the World Series and two at Williamsport — in which it had trailed by four or more runs. Both World Series wins were by a score of 5-4 on runs in the bottom of the sixth after trailing 4-0.
For both of the Academy students, the experience was definitely a roller coaster ride.
“My emotions were mostly happy,” said Purify, who also said he was very excited just to be participating in the games. “When we won I was even more happy and when we lost I was disappointed — not sad — but disappointed. But I also enjoyed the experience.”
His teammates and coaches also enjoyed Purify’s experience for it was his solo home run in the third inning of the game against Georgia that brought the team to within one run of the Southeast Region champs. He also singled in the sixth putting the tying run on base, but a flyout and strikeout by Woods-Shores ended the game and their chance to advance.
For Sharpe, whose timely hitting and excellent pitching in relief also were instrumental in the team’s successes throughout the series, there also were plenty of ups and downs, but he was happy to just have been able to play in it.
“The one thing about the Little League World Series is the highs are extremely high and the lows are extremely low,” he said. “I tried to stay somewhere in the middle even though it was hard. Being behind and then coming back in two of our games, it was especially hard to stay on an even keel.”
But some of those “highs” for Sharpe will last forever.
“One of the most exciting things for me was when, in the third game we played, I came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth, bases loaded in a tie game and hit a walk-off single to win the game, 5-4,” he said. Another great thing was being able to meet all of the other teams from different states and countries. Then, of course there’s all of that baseball stuff we got from Easton and Russell on the day we got to Williamsport!”
Purify, who runs cross country and plays basketball for the Bulldogs of GPA, said he can list many things he found most exciting during the LLWS, but he whittled it down to three.
“The top three exciting things for me during the games included, number one, hitting a home run against Georgia,” he said. “Number two was when Ryan Knaebel got the walk-off hit to win the game against Idaho in the bottom of the sixth and, three, when I made a diving play at third in the Idaho game. That play actually made ESPN’s ‘Top 10 Plays’ of the day.”
Now, as the baseball spotlight dims a bit, both Purify and Sharpe are getting started once again with classes at the Academy, which for them meant something else to look forward to.
“My experience at GPA all these years has been great,” said Sharpe, who is hoping eventually to attend either Vanderbilt University (because of its rich baseball tradition), or Michigan State University (because his dad went to medical school there). “In fact, I’ve always said that when I get older, I want my children to go to The Grosse Pointe Academy. The teachers care about every single student, and teach us as much as they can. GPA is a very nurturing environment.”
Sharpe first came to the Academy in the Early School and now is starting the seventh grade. He’s played tennis and basketball for the Bulldogs, but said throughout all the years at GPA, his favorite thing is the teaching staff.
“Even if you don’t have one of their classes, they are always there and willing to help you,” he said. “They obviously care about you as an individual.”
Eighth-grader Purify agrees with his baseball teammate on their school.
“I’ve had a great experience at the Academy,” he said. “The students and the staff are terrific and the environment is awesome. Some of my favorite things about the school are the sports program, the curriculum the school offers and the small class sizes.”
Purify also agrees with Sharpe on his university choice.
“I, too, would like to go to Vanderbilt University to play baseball and study electrical engineering,” he said.
Sounds like the Commodores will have a pretty good ball team in a few years.