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April 9, 2014

Panthers looking to become class of MAC Gold

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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The Roseville High baseball team is looking for its first division title since 2010. The Panthers finished one game off the lead in the MAC Gold last season. Pictured is Panthers sophomore catcher Matt Fowler during an April 2 practice.

Like just about every other team in Macomb County, the Roseville High baseball team has been forced to spend the majority of preseason practicing indoors due to inclement weather.

The Panthers had yet to play a game at press time, as their first two games were canceled. The team’s first practice on the field came April 1. The team worked on several different in-game situations, according to coach Keith Marzec.

The Panthers were involved in a number of one-run games last season, along with several others that were close into the late innings. It seems as though the focus of that first outside practice was on shoring up some of the things to help win those close games.

“We just talked about a lot of the little things — missing a cut-off man, letting a guy take an extra base, not getting an out or (turning a double play) when it’s a routine play,” said Marzec, in his 13th year with the program. “A lot of times for us, mistakes lead to big innings. We make an error, and a team scores two or three runs. We’ve got to be able to get out of those situations.”

Roseville senior co-captain Tyler Petrone said focus is key to the team’s prospects. He cited a 2013 district semifinal in which the Panthers and Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse were in a scoreless tie going into the bottom of the fourth inning. L’Anse Creuse went on to win the game 7-2.

The 15-man roster is made up of four seniors and six juniors, with the rest of the team being freshman and sophomores. Six players return from last year’s team at went 10-8, 7-3 in the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division.

Marzec said the team features some talented players, but the weather conditions have led to Roseville losing out on playing some valuable nonleague games.

“Coming out of spring break, we go right into divisional play,” Marzec said. “So we won’t really have those nonleague games to see what some of the kids can do. We’re going to do a lot of learning on the fly.”

Marzec said even though the team is young in terms of age, several players on the roster have been with the program for some time. Junior co-captain Ryan DiCiacca is a three-year player, and sophomore Matt Fowler started as a freshman.

“So a lot of how we do this year will come down to those situations we’ve been working on,” Marzec said.

The Roseville coach said the team will play small ball, or as Marzec called it, ‘right-way ball.’ He said sacrifice bunts can be smart plays, even though they play against some players’ egos.

He said if a hitter gets a good bunt down, he has a solid chance of beating it out. Marzec also noted there are no automatic outs in high school baseball.

“We’re definitely a team that will utilize the bunt,” Marzec said. “We will run. We’re very athletic, so we’ll do the hit and runs, and try to move guys over and manufacture runs.”

Petrone said the team has a chance to surprise opponents, as opposing teams could overlook the Panthers because of their youth. He said the team has a great chance at having a solid season and winning its first league title since 2010.

Marzec said the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division will be a dogfight, citing Center Line’s run to the Division 2 state quarterfinals and Clawson winning the league last year as examples of how competitive the league will be. Clawson won the league by one game over Roseville, which is in search of its first league title since 2010. Marzec said the winner of the league will be the team that does things the right way.

The team’s goals are to win the MAC Gold and win a district title. Marzec said he’s hopeful for a deep postseason run, too. Roseville is in a district with Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore and Warren Woods Tower. Those same four teams were grouped in 2013, with Tower coming out on top and moving on to a regional tournament.

“I think that should be everybody’s goal,” Marzec said of winning championships. “I think we have a legit opportunity to win our league, and I think we have a good chance to win our district.”

“I don’t want the experience of what happened last year — losing the lead by one game and losing in the district round because of some late-game issues,” Petrone said. “I’d love for us to make a deep playoff run.”

Roseville’s next game is a MAC Gold battle with East Detroit, set for 4 p.m. April 14 at Memorial Park in Eastpointe.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jason Carmel Davis at jdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1107. Twitter Follow Jason on Twitter.