Sterling Heights, Warren
De La Salle, Parkway Christian baseball teams prep for title defenses
Sterling Heights Parkway Christian baseball coach Rich Koch, right, will guide the team as it tries to repeat as Division 4 champ this spring. (File photo by Patricia O’Blenes)
Posted May 18, 2017
The state baseball playoffs are less than a week away, and two Macomb County teams in the C & G coverage area enter the 2017 postseason with a target on their backs.
The Warren De La Salle and Sterling Heights Parkway Christian baseball teams will enter the playoffs as defending champions in Division 1 and Division 4, respectively. The 2016 title was the fourth for the Pilots and the first for the Eagles.
The teams are entering the postseason with drastically different looks.
De La Salle’s roster is littered with players who made big plays in last season’s championship run, even though the team lost five players to graduation. Junior infielder Bryce Bush, junior pitchers Easton Sikorski and Nino Puckett, junior catcher and team captain Mac Graybill, and senior shortstop Mike Karam were all on the field as the Pilots captured their first title since 2009.
De La Salle coach Matt Cook — who is in his seventh year at the helm — called it a luxury to have so many battled-tested players back to defend a state title.
“All of those guys are of the belief that they can come up big in a big spot,” Cook said. “That makes me, as a coach, feel really good.”
Parkway Christian’s roster features lot of new faces and just three players from the team that brought the school its first championship of any kind: seniors Connor Mead (pitcher/outfielder), Dominic Gallagher (outfielder) and Caleb Joye (infielder). The Eagles lost their top six hitters and top three pitchers to graduation.
Parkway Christian coach Rich Koch — whose team outscored seven playoff opponents by 55 runs last spring on its way to a title — said a lot of players who may not be used to the pressure of playoff baseball will have to come through if the team is to make another run.
“But those guys want to show everyone on the outside that they can play,” Koch said.
Defense starts with districts
De La Salle’s road begins in a district hosted by Fraser High. The Pilots meet Warren Woods Tower in a quarterfinal at 4 p.m. May 30. The winner gets the host in a semifinal at 10 a.m. June 2.
The other half of the bracket features Warren Cousino and Sterling Heights High. The district final is set for 3 p.m. June 2. The winner advances to a regional set for June 10 and hosted by Anchor Bay High.
De La Salle has won 12 district titles since 2000 and 20 overall.
Parkway Christian plays in a district hosted by Dryden High. The Eagles get Marine City Cardinal Mooney in a semifinal at 1 p.m. June 3.
The other half of the field includes New Haven Merritt Academy and Kimball Landmark Academy. The winner moves on to a June 10 regional hosted by Mayville High.
If it advances, De La Salle would play in a D-1 quarterfinal June 13 at Wayne State University. Parkway Christian’s possible June 13 quarterfinal would take place at Grand Blanc High.
All of the state semifinals and finals take place June 15-17 at Michigan State University.
Better to be lucky…
Both coaches understand there can be a lot of variables that come into play for a championship-winning team.
Koch said his team will be aggressive on the base paths and called his team scrappy.
Cook said that sometimes outside forces come into play.
“It helps if you peak at the right time,” Cook said. “But sometimes the stars have to align, you have to stay healthy and your team has to be rolling. It’s tough, but we’re up for the challenge.”
For continuous playoff coverage and scores, visit candgnews.com/sports.
About the author
Staff Writer Jason Carmel Davis covers prep sports throughout Macomb County. Jason has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2011 and graduated from Michigan State University.
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