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May 8, 2013

Continued progression has Shrine baseball aiming for elusive league title

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Royal Oak Shrine’s Mark Ruhle delivers a pitch during a game against Farmington May 4. It was Shrine’s first loss of the season.

ROYAL OAK — When Dan Noble arrived at Royal Oak Shrine three years ago, he took over a baseball program with an abundance of youth, talent and optimism.

The challenge was blending all that together to put a successful product on the field.

Three springs later, a perfect record seems to speak for itself.

“I can’t say I’m entirely surprised, but very pleased,” Noble said last week. “I didn’t think we’d be unbeaten at this point, but we’re happy to be where we are.”

Following a flooded-field cancelation April 30, the Knights were 11-0 at press time and 9-0 in Catholic League CD Division play.

The program progression has been steady and impressive.

Coaching mainly freshmen and sophomores his first season, Noble took Shrine to a 17-15 record in 2011.

A year ago, the same team went 24-8.

“We’ve got guys playing as junior and seniors now that have been a part of this for a while,” Noble said. “It’s paid huge dividends. Guys that were young and just developing have turned into very good baseball players.”

“I think we’ve come together pretty well,” senior captain Connor Franzek said. “We’ve definitely come a long way, though. Coach Dan has done such a great job teaching us how to play the game, the fundamentals — the right way to play.  Now it’s a matter of keeping that winning mentality going forward.”

Pitching has been the Knights’ catalyst, so far.

With a solid defense behind his hurlers, Noble has watched his team allow just seven earned runs in nine league games.

He said his team isn’t “flashy,” but “does the simple things needed to win.”

Just how many wins they finish with remains to be seen, but the objective remains simple.

“The first and main goal is to win the division championship,” Noble said. “We’re in good position but nowhere near finished with that. There are so many games to be played. … Then you look ahead to possibly playing at Comerica Park (for the league title). To have that chance would be pretty special.”

Shrine has only played in three league-title games since the 1982 season, dropping all three.

“It’d be huge. Huge,” Franzek said of winning the division and possibly playing at Comerica.

“It’s always a competitive league that we haven’t won in a while,” he added. “It’s always been the goal, though. We’ve been close, but it’s time. We’ve been working toward it, and I think the work is paying off. It’s the time now for this program to take that next step.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.