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Farmington Hills

May 15, 2013

Raiders division and district title hopes strengthened by solid play

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
North Farmington’s Sterling Sharp gets back to first base during a win against Country Day on May 4. The Raiders are aiming for both league and district crowns.

One win away on the final day of the season, and the division was theirs for the taking.

And then in an instant, it was gone.

A week later, the season was over following a loss in a district semifinal.

There’s no way to sugarcoat the way 2012 came to an end for the North Farmington baseball team.

“We came so close,” senior catcher Eric Stanis said. “It was a tough way to go out.”

A year later, the Raiders don’t plan on making the same mistakes that soured an otherwise good spring a year ago.

That’s what their saying.

That’s how they’re playing.

“Especially defensively, we’re playing very good baseball right now,” coach Mike O’Connell said.

Following a doubleheader split against Harrison on May 8, North Farmington was 15-4.

“First and foremost, the goal of this team is to win the division,” he added. “They know they’re capable of that.”

At press time, the Raiders were 7-3 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division, still battling for the top spot.

“That’s something we talked about every year,” Stanis added.

But the talk hasn’t panned out.

North Farmington’s last division title was in the 2003 season.

“We’re due,” Stanis added.

If there was a team capable of snapping the drought, this may be it.

The defense, as O’Connell mentioned, has been strong in nearly every game.

Meanwhile, the veteran pitching staff, anchored by Sterling Sharp and Mitch Kramer, picked up right where it left off after a solid spring in 2012.

And led by Stanis and his .550 average, the offense is motoring on at .385 as a team.

“We’re solid in every aspect of the game, right now,” O’Connell said. “In the games we’ve lost, it’s been a few breaks here and there that made the difference.”

Sharp, who’s served as the team’s ace for the past two seasons, credited the offense for generating early runs more often than not.

“We’ve gotten some early run support, and that allows you to relax a bit,” he said. “Pitching with a cushion is much better.”

Pitching, early runs and solid defense will all be key down the stretch now, as the schedule tightens up and games become more important.

Like last year, the Raiders control their own destiny.

The division title is, once again, theirs for the taking.

The district, being hosted by Farmington High, will be without a clear-cut favorite.

“With the weather and everything, the season has flown by, but we’re looking forward to the next few weeks,” Sharp said. “It’s going to be tough and competitive, and we feel we have as good a shot as anyone.”

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