CENTER LINE — The 2012 season was a banner year for the Center Line High baseball team.
The Panthers reached the 20-win mark (20-10) — which included an 11-1 start — and captured a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 district title.
Center Line coach Rob Conti said he’s proud of what last year’s group accomplished but added that’s all in the past.
“Sure, we enjoyed all that stuff and it was a great accomplishment for the program, but it’s a new year now,” said Conti, whose team hadn’t played a game at press time.
“We want to build on that success. I’d be a poor coach if I didn’t want that.”
The Panthers return all but four players from last year’s team, with only two of those having been starters. Conti said his team is filled with talented, skilled players, but he added that the weather has put Center Line behind in terms of getting practice time on the field. March 27 was just the second time the Panthers were able to practice outside, Conti said. Center Line’s first game of the season, played after press time, was scheduled for March 28 against Hamtramck.
“(March 27) was the first time we had a chance to have live (batting practice),” Panthers senior pitcher/shortstop Jerome Dina said. “It makes it a little tough to get ready for games, but we just have to work through and get ready the best we can.”
“I think that’ll make things a little challenging at the start,” Conti said. “This time last year, it was in the 70s. We haven’t had as much of a chance as we’d like to work on some things, but we’ll be OK.”
Conti said he believes his team will be “OK” because of players such as Dina and junior catcher Kyle Lugar. The Center Line coach called those two the catalysts of the team, adding they’ll be charged with leading the offense.
“I think we have a chance to do some really good things,” Lugar said. “We just have to stay focused and hit the ball.”
Conti agrees with Lugar and has set a goal of winning the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division and moving past the MHSAA D-2 regional semifinals — the point where the Panthers’ season ended last year. Conti said winning the Silver would be a tough task, with the additions of Roseville and Warren Fitzgerald. Defending champion St. Clair Shores Lakeview moved to the MAC Gold.
“Yeah, I think we have a lot of talent and chance to improve on what we did last year,” Conti said, “but we still have to go out and play the games.”
The Panthers are slated to hit the field next for a matchup with St. Clair Shores Lake Shore at 4:30 p.m. April 8 at Kyte Monroe Field in St. Clair Shores.